In their simplest definition, aerobic means “requiring free oxygen” and aerobic exercises refer to exercises meant to improve the efficiency of a body’s cardiovascular system in transporting and absorbing oxygen. They sound like simple terms and they are. But, if you are to regard your fitness and health as an important factor in your life, you need to establish and commit to a regular regimen of aerobic exercise.
There are many forms of aerobic exercise. You can be as hard-core as you wish or simply settle for regular aerobic exercise that requires no more than your time and a decent pair of running shoes. Whatever your choices, make yourself a commitment to start your aerobic exercise program as soon as possible and continue an aerobics program throughout your life.
Why Aerobic Exercise Is Important
What is aerobic exercise good for? When you think of your body and how your fitness and health support it, one way to break things down is to consider the different parts. There are your bones, your organs, your nerves, your brain, etc. Each of them alone and working together contribute to your overall health. If any one is not functioning well it can negatively affect how you feel and how well your body performs.
Challenged to name one thing that most greatly affects how well your body performs, an obvious choice would be your cardiovascular system. In order to “work” your body’s cells require oxygen. It’s your cardiovascular system that carries oxygen brought into your body through your lungs and transferred to your blood cells via alveoli. Alveoli are the many small air sacs of the lungs. They facilitate the exchange of oxygen into the blood and carbon dioxide out of the blood.
Aerobic exercise makes this exchange of gases and transportation of them to and from your body’s cells more efficient. In the hierarchy of body processes that contribute to your fitness and health, you would be hard-pressed to name one more important.
Best Aerobic Exercise for Beginners
So, it’s not hard to understand why aerobic exercise is important. Having that knowledge; but, possibly having never focused on aerobic exercise, where should you start? That’s going to depend a lot on other factors like your age, your location, the local weather, and anything that might preclude rigorous aerobic exercise. For example, an 18-year-old living in rural Iowa during the summer without any significant issues limiting their aerobic exercise choices has more options than a 65-year-old with arthritis in their knees living in the heart of New York City during the winter.
If pressed to name my five best aerobic exercises for almost any individual regardless of age, local weather conditions, or factors limiting their aerobic exercise choices, I would expect the top of my list would be walking. I think walking is the best aerobic exercise for beginners because it can be done by people of all ages regardless of location or local weather conditions. People can walk in the heat, in the snow, in the rain, in almost any weather condition. They can walk in the country or in the city. They can walk on flat ground, uphill, and downhill. It works regardless of age. Yes, kids need aerobic exercise just as much the adults.
In general, as we age, our aerobic exercise options are going to be fewer. Most seniors aren’t going to be putting in marathon-length runs or spending an hour on a stationary bike. Yet, going back to simply walking works as it remains one of the best aerobic exercises for seniors.
Types of Aerobic Exercises
There are lots of different ways to break down the types of aerobic exercises a person can do to improve their fitness and health. I personally like to break them down into two categories: low-impact and higher impact.
- Low-impact aerobic exercises are those which put less stress on your bones and joints. Basic aerobic exercise requires movement. That primarily means the use of your legs. If the aerobic exercise you are accomplishing doesn’t involve repetitive pounding on your feet, ankles, and/or knees, I would consider that low-impact aerobic exercise. I would include walking, riding a stationary bike, and even running on a treadmill in the category of low-impact aerobic exercise. I consider low-impact aerobic exercises the best types of aerobic exercise for stress relief.
- Higher impact aerobic exercises have many benefits, but also the drawback that they are more likely to cause injury. Repetitive stress on ankles and knees can take their toll. These are most usually associated with running outdoors and some competitive sports like soccer. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them. It just means you need to be aware of the risks and willing to accept them. In fact, one of my top 10 aerobic exercises would have to be ultimate Frisbee. Not only can you get the benefit of a great aerobic workout; but, you can also realize the satisfaction of beating your friends (or enemies) at a great game.
Aerobic Exercise Equipment
For those who think just owning a pair of sneakers in which to run and get aerobic exercise is boring, you can always invest in a wide range of aerobic exercise equipment. Many of my top 10 cardio exercises can be accomplished using exercise equipment that combines motions of both the arms and legs. I’m sure you know what I mean. The equipment items are usually found at a fitness center and are very popular.
You can find elliptical machines with extensions that you can use to also exercise your arms. There are also stair-stepping machines with similar setups. You get the added bonus that these types of machines can also help your posture and balance. You should always make sure you are using the equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Being from a northern climate where we got our share of snow each winter, another of my top ten cardio exercises took advantage of that situation. I’m referring to cross-country skiing. Talk about a workout! You work your arms, your legs, your core muscles, everything. The only equipment items required were the skis and the proper attire. For those not afforded an environment conducive to real cross-country skiing, there are several affordable models of aerobic exercise equipment that simulate cross-country skiing. You can then enjoy the aerobic benefits of cross-country skiing year-round, in any locale.
Five Best Aerobic Exercises for the More Fit
Thus far we’ve addressed some great aerobic exercise for beginners and for those who have been engaged in at least an occasional fitness program. But, what if you’re someone who has conscientiously been exercising for some time. What should you be doing to improve your cardiovascular health? Here are some suggestions:
- Train for and run in a marathon. This will take some time to build up your endurance. But, running a marathon is doable and a great modern-term goal for the health-conscious.
- Mountain bike a challenging trail. I’m not talking about riding a mountain bike on some local trail (unless your locale has the right features). You need a trail with major elevation changes to get the most aerobic benefit.
- Take up swimming laps. The combination of moving through the water at a good pace and the breathing discipline required to do so is excellent aerobic exercise.
- Participate in an advanced aerobics program combining “traditional” aerobics movements with other, more intense movements. Aerobics programs that include boxing moves, martial arts moves, etc. have risen in popularity because they satisfy this need.
- Combine the aerobic benefits of swimming, biking, and running a marathon by competing in a triathlon. A triathlon usually involves an open water swim, a bike portion, and a running portion. An Iron Man triathlon is, in my opinion, the ultimate aerobic exercise test. It consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a marathon (26.22-mile) run often through some of the most inhospitable climates on the planet.
Don’t Shortchange Your Aerobic Program
Your cardiovascular system is the engine that gets the fuel your body needs to your cells and some of the “waste” it doesn’t need to where it needs to go to be discarded. If you want to remain fit and healthy, it’s in your best interest to get and keep your cardiovascular system working at peak proficiency.
If you’re still wondering what is aerobic exercise good for, hopefully, this article provided information on some great aerobic exercises for your cardiovascular system’s benefit. If you haven’t started an aerobic exercise program you should start one as soon as possible. Good cardio exercises performed throughout your life will help relieve stress and greatly improve your fitness and health.