In aerobic activity, your body uses oxygen in a process that breaks down fat and glucose for energy. Aerobic exercise refers to any physical activity that uses the large muscles in your arms and legs and makes your heart and lungs work harder.
Good examples are swimming, cycling, rowing, jogging, brisk walking, cross country skiing, touch football and aerobics or ‘cardio’ classes at the gym. Do these exercises regularly and you’ll get something wonderful in return — stamina. This means you’ll be able to do any kind of physical activity for longer without getting tired.
It increases the capacity of your heart and lungs to take oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. This means your muscles can produce energy for movement over a longer period, making it easier to do any kind of physical activity — walking, gardening, shopping — for longer. When physical activity gets easier, you’re likely to do more of it, and this builds stronger muscles that let you do even more physical activity without feeling tired.
According to the National Physical Activity Guidelines, adults should do around 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity most days of the week. ‘Moderate-intensity’ means activities such as brisk walking (as opposed to strolling or window-shopping) where your heart rate is slightly increased. As a guide, you should be able to talk comfortably — but not sing. Aerobic exercise should be done continuously for at least 15–20 minutes to achieve health benefits.
Although regular exercise of moderate intensity such as walking for 30 minutes on most days of the week helps reduce heart disease risk, a few sessions of more vigorous types of exercise increases fitness and protection against heart disease even more. The National Physical Activity Guidelines recommend including sessions of 30 minutes or more of vigorous activity three or four times a week. These can include aerobic activities such as aerobics classes, speed walking, jogging, fast cycling, brisk rowing or sports such as football, netball and basketball.
Because so many activities count as aerobic — including brisk walking, dancing and swimming — most people should be able to find one that suits them. If you’re unused to exercise, start slowly by walking for a few minutes at a time twice a day. Gradually increase your walking time and walk more briskly as you get fitter. Work toward walking for 20–30 minutes a day. If you have arthritis, swimming is one aerobic activity that is unlikely to stress your joints.
More vigorous forms of exercise aren’t generally recommended for some people. Check with your doctor first if you’re pregnant, over 40, have been leading a mostly inactive lifestyle, or have heart disease, a family history of heart disease or any other major health problem.
Some types of aerobic exercise such as brisk walking and swimming carry less risk of injury than others. High impact activities that can stress joints, muscle tendons and ligaments include running, soccer, netball and aerobics classes. General rules to help reduce injury risk include:
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Smartplay: sport safety and injury prevention program http://www.smartplay.com.au/
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Last published: 31 October 2010
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