Fitness Strategies

Use Aerobic Exercise as a Building Block

There is More to Cardio than Just Running

If exercisers picked a mascot, what do you think it would be? A jump rope? A punching bag? A man with a giant baseball as a head? If I had to guess, it would be an athletic shoe. A good pair of shoes can be an inspiration and reminder to get moving, whether you walk, bike, hike or enjoy any other type of physical activity. That's because aerobic exercise, is a cornerstone to being physically fit.

Aerobic exercise uses large muscle groups rhythmically and continuously and elevates the heart rate and breathing for a sustained period. Say what? In other words, you are exercising at a faster but stable rate, as the heart and lungs try to keep up with your demand for blood and oxygen so you can continue exercising.

The beautiful thing about aerobic exercise is you can do it everyday without even knowing it! When you walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, when you ride bikes with your family, and when you run with your dog--it’s all aerobic exercise.

The benefit list for aerobic exercise includes decreasing cholesterol levels and blood pressure, improving muscular endurance, reducing body fat, and it makes your heart, lungs and bones stronger. You will breathe easier and your heart will be much healthier.

Eventually, you will want to build up your cardio level so you can also partake in anaerobic exercise, which is exercise at a more difficult pace. This is when you are going all-out, like the 100-meter dash. Consider anaerobic the icing on the cake to good, cardio exercise. It’s important to gradually work anaerobic exercise into your workout, starting with very low intensity, especially if you’re not used to it. Doing 20 wind sprints or something similar right away can lead to injury or worse.

Here are some examples of both aerobic and anaerobic exercises. Feel free to try some or all of them out when you are ready:
  • Running
  • Riding a bike
  • Elliptical machine
  • Rollerblading
  • Swimming
  • Skiing, especially cross-country
  • Canoeing
  • Spinning
  • Even walking!
  • Weight lifting
  • Sprinting – on your feet or a bike
  • Jump rope
  • Sports like tennis, basketball, football
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About The Author

Zach Van Hart Zach Van Hart
Zach is a journalist who regularly covers health and exercise topics.

Member Comments

  • Love walking. I walk everyday for a hour and ten minutes or more. I have to get back to walking five miles in a hour and fifteen minutes. I even have bursitis in my left hip that pains me alot. Even when I am walking. - 10/21/2013 8:58:05 PM
  • Walking is certainly tough for some people. My mom can barely walk at all. I walk a few miles every day. Everyone is different. - 7/22/2013 8:44:20 AM
  • Walking is not tough! I started walking 10 weeks ago, 2 or 3 days a week, 3 miles a day and gradually building up speed, distance, and frequency. Now walking 6 miles a day 6 days a week, have lost 32 pounds in 10 weeks. I have had a plastic kneecap since I was 15 yo, now 56 yo. You CAN do it if I can! - 9/15/2012 12:02:06 AM
    by now I'm just keeping it simple by walking and doing yoga so I can improve my breathing and finally go to the gym and work on firming up. - 11/18/2011 2:39:02 PM
    This is a great article. Everyone can do something--it doesn't have to be extreme. I love Zumba too but right now all I am waiting for is my doctor to release me from restrictions so I can begin *walking* again. Its only been just over a week but I miss it terrible. Aerobic exercise is addictive. The body actually wants to do it! - 11/17/2011 7:21:31 AM
  • I love the overview this article provides. It is perfect instruction for what I am working on now. Thank you.
    I'll increase the frequency of my cardio and keep the strength training on alternate days. - 4/11/2011 4:32:47 AM
  • It might be a good idea to read Sparkpeople's more informative articles on the differences between aerobic & anaerobic exercise. This one seems to over-simplify things. People with high blood pressure, heart or health issues should consult a doctor. Even moderate exercise has terrific benefits. - 11/26/2010 1:06:54 AM
  • It might be a good idea to read Sparkpeople's more informative articles on the differences between aerobic & anaerobic exercise. This one seems to over-simplify things. People with high blood pressure, heart or health issues should consult a doctor. Even moderate exercise has terrific benefits. - 11/26/2010 12:53:45 AM
    only thing is a have osteoporosis and osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, and lower spine. only i can do is walking. - 11/19/2010 5:53:09 AM
  • Yeah it would be great IF I wasn't so out of shape and ASTHMATIC. SIGH. Even when I was younger and fitter it was a struggle to work my way up. Too bad I didn't keep up with it. - 11/17/2010 8:17:34 PM
  • Zumba changed my LIFE!!! I have lost 100 lbs thanks to ZUmba !!! If you love it as much as I do check out my zumba page on Face book!! I would Love to hear from you!! its Zumba Loco with Laci. Let me know you your part of Sparkle :) XOXO - 11/17/2010 1:58:54 PM
  • ...and aerobic exercise keeps the lymph system operating as it should. - 11/17/2010 11:31:22 AM
  • I also LOVE Zumba -- and I do water aerobics -- which is a deceptively GREAT workout! (And especially great when spending time in the jacuzzi afterwards!) - 11/17/2010 9:41:05 AM
  • I do a little cardio every day, even on weight training days. This leaves me energized all day long. I love to ride my bike on days when I'm "resting" from working out. It's just plain fun!! It reminds me of those days past when I was a kid zooming around the neighborhood without a care in the world. - 11/17/2010 6:55:48 AM
  • MARILYN991
    I cannot do many of the exercises. At 80 years old many of my joints scream back at me when I try to do things that I know I can't. I can use the Cross Country skiing machine though (it is called the Gilette machine). It doesn't hurt my knees or my legs. If you slow start, it is great. Joan - 8/13/2010 4:01:37 PM

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