What Are Aerobic Exercises?

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on July 14, 2023
4 min read

Everyone knows that some of the keys in maintaining a healthy lifestyle include eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and exercising. While any kind of movement and exercise can be beneficial, many experts agree that the best kind of exercise is aerobic exercise.

Aerobic exercise is cardiovascular exercise, or cardio, that gets your heart pumping. During aerobic exercise, your blood pumps quickly throughout your body and your lungs take in more oxygen.

The word aerobic means “with oxygen,” meaning that your breathing determines the amount of oxygen that gets to your muscles. Oxygen in your muscles is what helps them to move, giving you the strength to exercise. Your body creates this energy by using stored carbs and fats in combination with oxygen.

Depending on the intensity of the exercise, aerobic exercises can be performed for long periods of time. Your cardiovascular and muscular systems work together to help you perform a continuous activity that you can sustain for at least 30 minutes.

Many health experts agree that aerobic exercise is the most important part of any fitness routine. Anybody can benefit from this kind of exercise, and the more cardio you do, the more your body will adapt. You’ll notice over time that you will become stronger, fitter, and able to exercise for longer periods of time.

There are many benefits of aerobic exercise, including:

  • Burning fat, resulting in possible weight loss
  • A decrease in your resting heart rate
  • An increase in stamina and strength
  • Better heart, muscle, and lung fitness
  • Reduced risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and heart disease
  • Better mood, along with a decrease in stress and anxiety
  • Increase in good cholesterol, along with clearer arteries

One of the most important benefits of aerobic exercise is that it can increase your life expectancy. Research shows that people who include regular exercise in their fitness routine live longer than those who don’t exercise.

The good thing about adding aerobic exercise to your fitness routine is that there are many kinds, so you’re sure to find something that you like. Any activity that raises your heart rate and quickens your breath can be an example of aerobic exercise, especially activities that are done continually for a longer period of time.

Some examples of aerobic exercise that you can try include:

  • Running or jogging
  • Biking
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Rollerblading
  • Cardio machines, like a treadmill or elliptical machine
  • Stair climbing
  • Rowing
  • Dancing
  • Skiing
  • Jumping rope
  • Playing sports like basketball, soccer, hockey, volleyball, or other games

These kinds of activities are sustainable for longer durations of time. Activities like weightlifting, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), plyometrics (exercises that use quick movements to build muscle power), or calisthenics are considered anaerobic activities. These are short, fast exercises that don’t use oxygen as a source of energy.

Anaerobic activities use the energy that’s already stored in your muscles and can usually only be done for 10 to 15 seconds at a time. This type of exercise helps to burn fat, increase muscle mass, and strengthen bones. These kinds of exercises can be added to your aerobic exercise fitness routine.

Experts recommend getting in some aerobic exercise three to seven days a week. In each session, you should aim to keep the activity going for at least half an hour.

If you’re looking to get more active, check with your doctor first if you have conditions that limit your movement. You may also want to get some advice from your doctor if you’ve never exercised before, are a smoker, or have a chronic health condition.

Start your fitness routine by picking an activity that you enjoy. Doing something you like can help you stick with your goals and maintain an exercise routine long-term. Exercise should be seen as an activity that you want to do and not as a punishment.

As a beginner, aim to get in five to 10 minutes of continuous activity. A good plan to follow includes five minutes of warming up, five to 10 minutes of aerobic activity, and five minutes of cooling down and stretching. Repeat this routine a few times during your first week.

As the weeks go by, add a little more time to the aerobic activity. Try picking up the pace, like walking faster, for example. You’ll notice that the activity will become easier and that you can sustain it longer. As you get more comfortable, you can try a wider variety of aerobic exercises that you might enjoy.