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Reference Guide to Aerobic Exercise

An In-Depth Look
  -- By Jen Mueller, Certified Personal Trainer and Nicole Nichols, Certified Fitness Instructor
SparkPeople’s Exercise Reference Guides offer an in-depth look at the principles of fitness.

What is Aerobic Exercise?
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines aerobic exercise as "any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature." It is also defined as exercise that increases the need for oxygen. Aerobic exercise is used interchangeably with the terms: cardiovascular exercise, cardio-respiratory exercise and cardio. Some examples of aerobic exercise include: walking, jogging, running, dancing, rollerblading, bicycling, swimming, aerobics classes (both land and water), rowing, stair climbing, etc.

What are the Benefits of Aerobic Exercise?
Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart and lungs (which make up the cardiovascular system). During exercise, your muscles demand more oxygen-rich blood and give off more carbon dioxide and other waste products. As a result, your heart has to beat faster to keep up. When you follow a consistent aerobic exercise plan, your heart grows stronger so it can meet the muscles' demands without as much effort. Everyone, regardless of their weight, age, or gender, can benefit from aerobic exercise.

Regular aerobic exercise, performed most days of the week, also helps reduce the risk of illness and premature death. Regular aerobic exercise improves health in the following ways: Source: “Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General”, CDC, 1999.
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How Much Aerobic Exercise Should You Do?
When considering the guidelines for aerobic exercise, keep the FITT principles in mind (Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type). Get the Most Out of Your Aerobic Workouts
These tips will help you get started on the right foot! Training Methods
There are various types of training methods, depending on personal preference. Use each of the methods periodically to add variety to your workouts.