Aerobic exercise (sometimes called just “Cardio”) is any exercise that condition your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) for a better performance.
So, anything that makes your heart pump and your breath pant is aerobic exercise.
It means that if you go running right now and you start panting after few meters you need to train with aerobic exercise.
Aerobic exercise is VERY important. You can’t actually think you can avoid it. You must make time for it as an important part of your life.
Let me give you an example to let you understand the importance of this kind of workout.
If your heart was the engine of a car, you know that if you never change the oil, or the filter, or you don’t do the proper maintenance, that engine will break down and your car will be unusable.
Aerobic exercise is the maintenance your heart needs in order to keep the blood and your body clean for the best performance.
So, what aerobic exercises are out there? Well… many! Many ways in different forms and likes, what ever you feel comfortable with, it’s your exercise. Just go for it.
I will name a few of the most popular in a moment but before you get in to hyper fitness Rambo mode you should take a look at this article to properly understand how hard should you train at your age for your heart using your Target Heart Rate (THR) (open in a new page/tab).
Cycling is an excellent form of aerobic exercise. If you like biking this is your treat.
You can use your bicycle or a bicycle machine you can find in your gym (or maybe you have if at home)
Cycling burn up to 900 calories per hour when done properly. Works on legs and cardiovascular system and is relatively safe because does not impose much stress on the joints of your body.
Of course if you have a bicycle to ride outdoor you will enjoy the freedom of space and the awesome view you may have around.
However if you live in the city you will not be able to enjoy much of fresh air in the middle of the traffic. If you count also the possibility of any accident you should consider very clearly if is more convenient for you to train indoor or outdoors (not considering the weather of course).
An important point I would like to make sure you understand is the adjustability of the seat. The bicycle or the machine you are going to use for your training should have adjustable seat to allow your leg to be slightly bent when extended.
The position of your body when working out is not much important as you will change it anyway during your training, but the most important point is that you reach your THR.
Like Cycling, Running can be performed outside in the fresh air or indoor on a treadmill. Even if I would always prefer training outdoor sometimes the treadmill can offer some pretty good reasons to workout indoor.
Running is very popular and is difficult to see a gym without a proper set of treadmills for its customers.
On a treadmill you can set a constant speed and an inclination to have a steady intensity of your workout and it’s easy to monitor different information about your body and your performance on the display (Heart rate, speed, averages, distance…) and record your progresses.
Beside the fact that you are running on an even surface you can also benefit of a clean air and no weather problems, avoiding any excuse to workout.
Compared to other forms of exercise, running have a certain amount of orthopedic stress and the trauma to your joint can range between 1.5 to 3 times your body weight each foot step.
I highly suggest running as your aerobic workout only if your knees and joints are in good health.
Stair Climbing Machine
In the last ten years became the most popular in most gym.
The stair climbing machines have 3 main characteristics: Safe, Time efficient, Functional
These machines come in 2 forms:
- Independent stepping action: Each step operates independently from the other step
- Dependent stepping action: They are non-functional by design and they can cause orthopedic trauma to your knees, hips and low back.
Of course you should go only with the first one. Independent stepping action machines are the most used in therapeutic medical facilities.
It doesn’t really matter where you put your hands while working out on these machines, but I suggest you to try to keep them down straight like in a walking motion. In this way you will also train your core (abs and back) improving your balance at each step.
Rowing is my favorite aerobic exercise (just because I like it) and it burns calories like any other exercise.
It’s another excellent choice for develop aerobic fitness and it does a fantastic workout.
It conditions heart and lungs without any orthopedic trauma like jogging or stair climbing machine and it’s a good workout for the muscular system too.
When properly performed this exercise involves most of the major muscular groups of your body. Around 70% legs and 30% arms are engaged at every row strike.
If you are looking to develop your upper body this workout will place a considerable demand on your back muscles (lats, posterior deltoids, rhomboids) and simultaneously improve your aerobic fitness.
However I have to say that you should take your time to learn the correct position and technique to properly perform this exercise. Make sure you check with a fitness professional about the correct movement and different kinds of machines available.
Cross training is not one exercise or “one machine’.
Cross training is the mix of different exercises during your workout session.
It’s good to mix up exercises in order to train different muscles to perform different movement.
While your heart and lungs will be well trained if you switch between one exercise to another (let’s say from cycling to running for example) your muscles may not be able to perform their best on running because they were trained for cycling.
Alternating exercises will develop all muscles involved in any activity and help to avoid injury during training while giving a more complete workout.
Considering that the aerobic workout should be performed minimum 20 minutes per session 3 times a week, you can easily come up with your own program as follow:
Monday: 10 minutes running + 10 minutes stair climbing
Wednesday: 10 minutes rowing + 10 minutes cycling
Friday: 10 minutes stair climbing + 10 minutes rowing
I would recommend of course to start with what you like the most. Follow the guidelines of the article mentioned above on how hard should you train at your age for your heart using your Target Heart Rate (THR) for the best results.
Remember that it’s only up to you to make your change. Now you have few more suggestions on how to get started.
Keep going, don’t stop, make it a lifestyle!
Note: The exercise program described in this article is intended as example for general audience and should be reviewed by a personal trainer if used with specific individuals.