Whether you know it as cardiorespiratory, cardiovascular or simply cardio exercise, aerobic exercise requires you to use large muscle groups rhythmically and continuously. This type of exercise forms part of a balanced workout schedule. To improve your fitness level, you should also incorporate resistance training, flexibility work and neuromotor exercises into your workouts.
Rhythmic Use of Muscle Groups
When fitness experts refer to using your large muscle groups, they are speaking of the muscles in your arms, chest, legs, torso and hips -- such as your biceps, pectorals, quadriceps, abdominals and gluteus maximus. Basically, in aerobic exercise, you move your whole body. The rhythmic nature of this type of exercise typically means that your muscular movements are repetitive. When you jog, for example, you move your legs and arms continuously, repetitively and rhythmically. These movements cause you to breathe faster and your heart to beat more rapidly.
To benefit from aerobic exercise, you need to engage in it for an extended period of time. This is in contrast to anaerobic exercise, which requires strenuous effort for a short duration. By moving continuously for at least 10 minutes, your cardiovascular system becomes stronger and more efficient at delivering oxygen to your muscles. Ideally, you should perform numerous aerobic workouts throughout the week. The precise number of minutes you should accumulate depends on the intensity level of your exercise.
To benefit from your aerobic workouts, you need to exercise at either a moderate or vigorous intensity. You can easily monitor the intensity of your workouts by trying to talk as you move. If you can sing while exercising, you're only doing light-intensity exercise. If you can talk but not sing, you're engaged in moderate-intensity exercise. If you have trouble saying more than a few words at a time, you've hit a vigorous intensity. Healthy adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. See the Resources section for a convenient listing of moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activities compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the main benefits of aerobic exercise impact your heart and lungs, certain types of aerobic exercise can impact your bones. All aerobic exercise can be classified as either weight bearing or non-weight bearing. Because weight-bearing activities such as walking and running strengthen the bones in your legs, back and hips, they can help prevent osteoporosis.