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What Is Aerobic Exercise?

What Is Aerobic Exercise?

The word “aerobic” can be broken down into a simple definition: living in the presence of oxygen. In terms of exercise, aerobic exercise refers to a level of physical activity that requires the use of oxygen throughout your body. This primarily involves your lungs, which breath in oxygen from the air, and circulates it within the body through the heart as it pumps blood within the body through your cardiovascular system. Aerobic activity can sometimes be used synonymously with cardiovascular workouts, as cardio exercise consists of any type of physical activity that increases your heart rate. There are many types of different aerobic exercises you can do to receive the most health benefits out of your workout. 

What Is The Difference Between Aerobic And Anaerobic Exercise?

Before moving on to the benefits and different types of aerobic exercises, it is important to understand and differentiate the distinction between aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise. Let’s dive a little deeper into the meaning of each exercise:

Aerobic Exercise

As we mentioned earlier, aerobic fitness refers to a level of physical activity that requires the use of oxygen throughout your body. It is sometimes referred to as endurance exercise. During any type of exercise, there are different processes that our body undergoes in order to expend the energy needed for that workout. 

Within our body, there are systems that depend solely on the availability of free oxygen in order to disperse energy. For example, the mitochondria is an organelle in all cells that is commonly referred to as the powerhouse of the cell. This is because the mitochondria are able to metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to generate the cell’s supply of energy, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The driving source to produce such energy is based solely on the availability of free oxygen. 

Some examples of aerobic exercise include long-distance running, swimming, and biking. 

Anaerobic Exercise

As you can probably guess from the name itself, anaerobic exercise utilizes sources of energy that do not rely on the presence of free oxygen. Through this mechanism and with the absence of oxygen, energy is expended based on sources such as glucose. This is through a biochemical process known as glycolysis. Glycolysis is a process in which glucose is used as the main energy source, as it is broken down to release ATP. Another source of energy that can be used during anaerobic exercise includes creatine phosphate, which is primarily stored in muscle. Some examples of anaerobic exercise include sprinting, strength training, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

Now that we have a basis of what aerobic workouts entail, let’s take a closer look at the benefits associated with such exercise.

Weight Loss

With any type of weight loss program to combat obesity, there are two main components to focus on: diet and exercise. The main takeaway message, when integrating both elements, is understanding the balance between the number of calories you consume versus the number of calories you burn off throughout the day for a healthy lifestyle. As we mentioned earlier, the main mechanism of aerobic exercise is the use of converting carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy in the presence of oxygen. Therefore, your body is burning off the foods you are consuming throughout your exercise, and this may help you lose body weight.

Cardiovascular And Respiratory Conditioning

During aerobic training, your lungs and heart are working together simultaneously to provide enough oxygen and blood flow to your muscles. The more you are working out, the more you are conditioning the muscles in your lungs and heart to work. Consistently doing so, your lung and heart muscles will become stronger and will be able to work more efficiently during your workout, and this will improve your physical fitness. 

Not only will aerobic exercise aid in strengthening your heart muscles, but it can also help in reducing cardiovascular accidents as well. Aerobic exercises tend to boost the good cholesterol in your body as it diminishes the bad cholesterol and triglycerides. Through this, your arteries are able to stay clear of harmful aggregations that can lead to accidents such as a stroke, a heart attack, or heart disease. 

Reduce Your Risk Of Chronic Diseases

Physical activity is important for your overall health and wellness, as it can also influence your mental health and longevity. Exercising can help promote a healthier lifestyle by maintaining blood pressure and blood sugar levels and relieving negative feelings like tension and stress. 

Not only does it reduce your risk, but it can help improve the quality of life of someone who has already developed conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. In these situations, it is important to consult with your physician to see what type of exercise program will be beneficial for you, depending on your fitness level. They will also give you advice on what kind of intensity you should be doing, as some health conditions may require low-intensity, moderate-intensity, or high-intensity exercise. 

For example, for individuals with arthritis, high-impact long-distance running may not be a great option as running may impact too much pressure on your joints. Instead, machines such as the StreetStrider may be the most beneficial. With this mobile outdoor elliptical machine, you can enjoy the jogging aspect without the impact of pounding the pavement on your joints. 

Body Performance

If you keep up with aerobic exercise over time, you will notice a substantial difference in your performance. Not only will the exercises seem easier than when you first started, but you will be able to see a difference in the way your body responds to physical activity. With regular aerobic exercise over time, your body will be able to build endurance and stamina to complete exercises with reduced fatigue. You may even notice a change in your resting heart rate.

Aids In A Stronger Immune System

Aerobic exercises stimulate your muscles to create natural antioxidants to fight off harmful chemicals and free radicals throughout our bodies. Not only does this help protect against environmental factors such as smoke and radiation, but it also helps to boost our immune system from fighting off harmful agents to our body.  

Types of Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercises can easily be categorized based on the intensity of the workout. Generally speaking, the intensity is determined simply by how hard you are working during that session. The best way to measure this is by keeping track of your heart rate during vigorous exercise. You should try to stay within the range of 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate to ensure your body is still utilizing the aerobic process of energy expenditure. Calculate your maximum heart rate by directly subtracting your age from 220 beats per minute (bpm). 

Some lower intensity aerobic exercises include:

For a higher intensity aerobic exercise, consider activities such as:

  • Running 
  • Climbing stairs
  • Jumping rope 
  • Kickboxing 

Guidelines To Follow

Whether you are just beginning to consider this lifestyle or if you have already adhered to your fitness journey, here are a couple of guidelines to follow to ensure the safest and most efficient time spent during your workout. 

  • A minimum of 30 minutes per day for at least five of the seven days is recommended to gain the benefits of incorporating physical activity into your daily routine.
  • To start, you may want to consider starting off slow by breaking up the 30 minutes throughout the day. For example, taking three 10 minute walks a day is a great way to start incorporating a workout routine into your daily regime.
  • At least three days of the week should be reserved for a more moderate to vigorous-intensity workout. 
  • Remember to keep track of your heart rate to determine how hard you are working during your exercise!
  • Within each workout session, it is important to set aside time to warm up and cool down your body. Before your workout, take five to ten minutes to allow your body to brace itself for exercise. It should be a nice and steady, gradual increase to provide time for your body to steadily increase blood flow circulation. After your workout, take five to ten minutes to steadily decrease the intensity of your workout rather than abruptly stopping. Using this guideline will help decrease injury to your muscles by preparing your body before and after aerobic exercise. 
  • Stretching before and after your workout can also be beneficial to your muscles as it helps to loosen them up to prevent injury and to provide a wider range of motion during your workout.
  • Advancement in aerobic exercise should be gradual to ensure safety. There are three areas in which you can cautiously increase during your workout: intensity, resistance, and duration. 
  • If you experience any symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, or joint pain, end your workout immediately and consult with your physician for any underlying causes.


In conclusion, incorporating aerobic exercises into your workout regime can be beneficial to creating a healthy living routine. If you are a beginner, find an aerobic exercise that you will enjoy to keep you motivated throughout your journey. Start slowly by implementing five minutes of warming up, ten minutes of any aerobic exercise you choose and end with five minutes of cooling down and stretching. Repeating this every day can help you gradually increase the time and intensity of your workout while still gaining all the benefits that come with it. Sooner or later, aerobic exercise will become a natural and effortless activity incorporated into your daily routine.


  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/aerobic-exercise/art-20045541
  2. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/sftaying-healthy/aerobic-exercise/ 
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/7050-aerobic-exercise
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