When people think about getting fit, it is aerobic exercise that they are usually thinking about. Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio, or cardiovascular, encompasses a wide range of activities, including:
- Cardio or Step classes
- Exercise machines - e.g. indoor rower, stationary bike, cross trainer, treadmill, stepper
Performed regularly, aerobic exercise has profound positive effects on the body. The benefits of aerobic exercise include:
- Losing weight - Regular cardio workouts burn calories and are a great way to help you to lose weight. While weight isn't the only measure of health, most people carry excess weight
- Losing body fat - a more important indicator of health is body fat - excess body fat is associated with many health problems, and regular exercise helps to reduce body fat levels.
- Improved endurance - improved endurance makes it easier to get through a busy day, climb the stairs without getting breathless, or play with your kids
- Improved posture - improving your posture not only help you look better, it can also reduce pain in areas like the low back and shoulders
- Better relaxation - people who exercise regularly are more relaxed and sleep better
- Slowing down the aging process: Much of what we consider to be the signs of aging are actually the result of our sedentary lifestyles. Regular cardio exercise strengthens muscles and bones, and is one of the most effective methods of avoiding osteoporosis.
- Reduced blood pressure: Cardio exercise helps to maintain the flexibility of your arteries, and can thus help to reduce blood pressure.
- Improved Lung function: The deep breathing that cardio exercise produces makes you use more of your lungs, increasing total lung usage by up to 50%.
- Improved sex life: The increased blood flow from regular exercise means that those who exercise regularly are up to 30% less likely to develop sexually related problems.
- Mental health: Regular exercise can have profound effects on your brain, including improved mental skills, and lower incidence of depression.
So what do you have to do to reap this incredible range of benefits? The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) recommends that people perform moderate-intensity aerobic exercise five days per week for at least 30 minutes, or vigorous aerobic exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes three times per week.
This can be a combination of any of the types of exercise listed above. From walking the dog to doing a salsa class, as long as the exercise is sufficient to increase your heart rate, and as long as it lasts at least twenty to thirty minutes, it will have some benefit.
Of course, the more you do, the more you will get out of it. Longer workouts, and more intense workouts, will increase the benefits, getting you fitter quicker.
The secret is to plan to workout - make time in your life for it, rather than sitting on the couch and saying "I never have time to exercise." You'll look better, feel better, and be improving your health.