We used to do it and enjoyed it as kids—Chasing friends around, dancing to music, playing tag, jumping rope - they are all aerobic activities we all enjoyed growing up.
Since then, we stopped having fun as if the music box stopped. And there it went our activity level.
I may not be able to talk you into having the same fun as you did when you were a child.
But I have 9 aerobic exercises that can help you get your activity level back and up to where it was in your childhood.
You can easily do them at home on a daily basis to help bring back the fun, all while whipping your body back into better shape.
What is Aerobic Exercise?
Aerobic exercise also known as a cardio exercise is by definition, any type of activity that gets your heart pumping and your lungs working harder than their normal capacity. It can also make you sweat.
But you probably already knew that.
The good news is, there is more.
Studies have shown that aerobic exercise helps your mind and improves your mood, too.
It releases your feel good chemicals into your body knowns as endorphins.
You remember the movie, Legally Blonde where Elle Woods make the endorphins argument?
Here is her line.
"Exercises give you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people don’t kill their husbands."
If you’ve never seen the movie, here is the clip.
Legally Blonde is hilarious and a great watch.
The movie is available for free on 30 Day Amazon Prime Trial and Netflix, so go watch for free if you are interested.
For a happier mind, about 1 hour of aerobic exercise every day is recommended for adults.
So, What Count As Aerobic Exercise?
Literally, aerobic exercise is anything that gets your body moving and sweating. It can be running, biking, rowing, hiking, or even sex for the matter.
If it increases your heart rate to higher beats, then it’s cardio.
And remember as you become fit, you’ll want to add strength training exercises, such as squats, pushups, lunges, planks, to your workout routine to meet the physical activity level recommended for healthy adults.
Here is the physical activity recommended for a healthy adult by 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
- At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity— or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week.
- 2 days a week of strength training exercises
To get you started, I came up with a list of 11 aerobic exercise examples you can do anywhere.
A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step— and this is true when it comes to exercises as well.
Walking is a great way to start exercising and just so happens that it’s something that we already do everyday for a varying amount-Admittedly, for many of us, maybe not an adequate amount.
Most of us get at least 30 minutes of walking a day.
Walking is a low impact activity that can deliver many of the benefits of aerobic exercise. It’s safe and has many health benefits.
Benefits of walking
Walking on a regular basis is beneficial to many aspects of your health.
It can help...
- Reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes
- Management your diabetes
- Reduce your risk of heart attack
- Prevent or reduce high blood pressure
- Manage your weight
- Manage stress and boost your spirits
- Maintain bone density
- Keep your strong, active and fit
How to get started
Like any form of exercise, safety is your first priority.
And as innocent, gentle and seemingly un-harmful activity walking may seem, there are many pitfalls to walking for exercise. Knowing how to prevent injury can save you pain and a hefty bill from a doctor's.
To prevent yourself from getting injured, proper preparation before walk is equally as important as the walk itself.
Chose and wear the appropriate walking shoes and clothing.
Select comfortable footwear that fits properly can help prevent blister (also grab blister free socks), calluses and other injuries.
Walking shoes should be of good quality and fit you well.
For tips on buying good walking shoes, check out "The Best Sneakers for walking from Health.com".
Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing and dress in layers just in case you need to adjust to changing temperatures.
Spend about five to eight minutes walking in place slowly to warm-up the body and get the blood flowing to your muscles. One Study show that properly warming up your muscles reduces the risk of injury.
Stretch your muscles after the warm-up for about 5 to 10 minutes.
After your warm-up and stretch, start at a pace that’s comfortable for you.
When you feel ready, gradually pick up the pace by walking faster for as far as you can.
For example, if can only walk 5 minutes at a time, have 3 sessions of 3-5 minutes walk.
Slowly build up your endurance and stretch your session to 15 minutes at a time for 2-3 times a week.
Continue to extend your sessions and increase the speed/intensity all while up your frequency to 4-5 days a week.
Measure the intensity of your workout
Measuring how hard you are working your body during your walk can be as simple as measuring your exhaustion level and breathlessness.?
Level of Exertion and Quality of Breathing
If you haven’t worked out in a while or are just getting back into it, you may feel out of breath and experience difficulty carrying on a conversation.
It's normal, and can be seen as a sign that you are walking too fast and need to slow down.
According to Joel Dowdell, celebrity trainer and founder of Peak Performance NYC, intensity that allows a conversation is considered easy activity or active recovery where your heart rate is most likely at 50 - 69%.
However, if you push yourself to the point where you are gasping and struggling for air, you are likely working at your maximum anaerobic capacity with your hear rate being somewhere between 90 - 100%.
It's a valid way to measure your intensity and exertion level.
Pedometer and Fitness Trackers
If you are looking to get a bit more productivity of out your walk and its performance tracking, then consider using a pedometer or advanced fitness tracker.
You can also keep track of your steps or miles by wearing a pedometer or other fitness trackers that uses satellite technology and allows you to download data to a computer.
I like to use a Polar Heart Rate Monitor, when I walk to keep track of my cardiovascular fitness. This will also help you maintain the right intensity levels, so you don’t over do it by going to fast.
I know this may seem like a lot of investment just for walking. But here is why this is important.
According to the American Heart Association, you want to be working out in a heart rate zone that is 50-84% of your hypothetical maximum heart rate.
Here is the age breakdowns below:
Age Target HR Zone 50-85% Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%
20 years 100-170 beats per minute 200 beats per minute
30 years 95-162 beats per minute 190 beats per minute
35 years 93-157 beats per minute 185 beats per minute
40 years 90-153 beats per minute 180 beats per minute
45 years 88-149 beats per minute 175 beats per minute
50 years 85-145 beats per minute 170 beats per minute
55 years 83-140 beats per minute 165 beats per minute
60 years 80-136 beats per minute 160 beats per minute
65 years 78-132 beats per minute 155 beats per minute
70 years 75-128 beats per minute 150 beats per minute
It’s important to note that genetic variability and medication can alter your max heart rate. For example blood pressure medication can lower your maximum heart rate.
The percent of maximum heart rate training method is not absolute, but a good proxy for exertion. If you spend an hour on the treadmill at 50% intensity, are you really working hard?
Monitoring and knowing your heart rate gives you a better idea of your actual exertion.
Plus, you can track your walk and its energy expenditure much more accurately with use of an advanced tracker.
2. Biking or cycling
Cycling is another type of aerobic exercise that is great for your health and body.
For that, you can use either a stationary (see our list of 5 best affordable stationary bikes) or regular bike.
In other words, whether you get your cycling indoor at a studio like SoulCycle or outdoor like a true outdoorsy would, it wouldn't matter much in a sense of getting cardio.
With biking, you can burn as many calories as jogging.
According to Bicycling.com, a person who weighs 140 pounds can burn about 381 calories pedaling 10-12 mph.
If burning calories is your top priority, join an indoor vigorous cycling class. It burns even more calories than the 10-12 mph pedaling session - burning as much as 483 calories per hour.
Obviously, you wouldn't get the extra energy expenditure from leisure cycling. It takes heart pumping, sweat dropping, pedaling to the BGM of "Madonna -Give it 2 Me" to get the extra expenditure.
More precisely, your work effort, speed and resistance play a major role in determining how many calories you get to burn from your cycling session.
Cycling also strengthens and tones your legs. It's also a lot easier on your joints than other aerobic activities like jogging.
For that, cycling may be ideal for those with arthritic or other orthopedic problems and who are unable to walk for an extended period of time without pain or difficulty.
A program that combines walking and cycling may provide cardiovascular benefits without inducing the limiting pain as quickly.
Cycling is also a good choice for people who are greater than 50 pounds overweight.
It helps the heart without the mechanical stress on the back, hips, knees and ankles walking can cause. One drawback is - if you cycle outdoors exclusively, the weather may limit your activity.
Cardio doesn't have to be a dreaded run on a treadmill or elliptical.
You can have fun while burning major calories and getting fit. Dancing can help a 150 pounds person burn a whopping 396 calories.
For aerobic dancing like Zumba, Hip Hop and Salsa, the number is even better. It can burn upwards of 443 calories per hour.
And yes, sweaty Saturday-night dance parties totally count.
So if you are sick and tired of walking and cycling, go dance your heart out. It's good for your heart (literally!), health and weight loss.
4. Jumping Rope
Your favorite childhood playground game is actually an incredible aerobic workout.
Because jump rope can be done indoors, it's a perfect all-year around cardiovascular workout— except for one condition.
Jumping is a high impact aerobic activity— so anyone with orthopedic problems should avoid this exercise.
Other than that, jump rope is a fantastic cardiovascular exercises for strengthening your heart, lungs and the entire body.
Depending on your pace, size and intensity, you can burn up to 670 calories jumping for an hour.
Shoot for at least 100 skips per minute to get the most bang for your jump.
The best part is you don’t even need a fancy equipment. You can do it right in your garage or back yard with a less than $10 jump rope. It's as good as cardio you get from a fancy treadmill.
5. Running Up Stairs
But of course, not all cardio is painless and provides endless fun like dancing.
Sometimes, something's got to give.
Running up the stairwell is technically just as painful as running or worse.
The only thing that makes this sadistic cardio regimen worth the effort is the calories you get to burn.
A 175 pound person burns about 21 calories during a 2 minute stair climb, burning as many calories as you packed in from a decadent Baked by Melissa Cupcake.
And let's not forget its practicality.
If you live on the 5th floor walk-up, why not run up the stairs for extra cardio? It's a lot more practical than running in the middle of nowhere.
Besides the awesome calorie expenditure, stair climbing is a great aerobic exercise that strengthens the legs, glutes, abs, heart and lungs— just like any other cardio exercises.
While standing on a 60-second elevator ride, conversely, burns just two calories. So ditch the elevator and take the stairs next time and run up while at it.
6. Aquatic exercise
Aquatic aerobic is a perfect low-impact cardiovascular exercise that takes the pressure off your bones, joints and muscles.
The water offers natural resistance, which helps strengthen your muscles as well as relaxing them.
You don’t even need to know how to swim to perform aquatic exercise.
You can start by walking in the water.
Just make sure the water is not too deep and it’s about waist high. Walk across the pool swinging your arms like you normally do when walking on the land.
You should avoid walking on your tiptoes, and keep your back straight.
Tighten your abdominal muscles to avoid leaning too far forward or to the side, says Mayo Clinic.
If you have a hard time walking in water, try water shoes as they can help you maintain traction on the bottom of the pool.
If you like dipping in water, you can also try swimming.
Swimming is an excellent aerobic exercise and low impact activity, making it ideal for those with orthopedic issues looking to stay active.
Swimming is also great for weight loss.
A 130-pounds person swimming fast for one hour can burn up-to 590 calories and 413 calories at a moderate pace, says Ryan Wood a writer for Active.com.
Since swimming is a low impact aerobic exercise, its neutral on common problems areas like the lower back and knees, explains Ryan.
Although it's a gentler form of cardio, it is still highly recommended that you consult with a physician before beginning a swimming program.
Running is lot more physically demanding than other aerobic activities such as walking, cycling and swimming because it is a high-impact activity that uses large muscle groups.
At one point in your stride, both feet are off the ground, and you land on one foot at a time, propelling your body forward.
This places very high-stressed on your knees, and lower back.
With that being said, running burns lots of calories. And for that, it is often the primary choice of activity for people who are trying to lose weight and burn as many calories as possible.
Some studies also show that running at a moderate to high-intensity raises your metabolism for up to three hours after exercise, which burns more calories throughout the day.
This only makes it even more appealing as a weight loss plan.
Running can also be done both indoors and outdoors.
Running for weight loss
Running is great for weight loss, no doubt.
But the number of calories your bun solely depends on the duration, speed and intensity.
All in all, how many miles and how fast you run add to the equation.
According to Calorie Lab, you will burn about 612 calories running at 6 mph, which is about 10 minutes per mile.
But be careful not to over do it. Running 6 mph for someone who’s not physically fit is not ideal.
Instead, start easy and then as your body gets more conditioned, you can begin to add more miles to your run.
Grab this running for weight loss plan for beginners to get started.
Image credit: popsugar.com
Rowing is one of the best aerobic exercises you can do—In fact, it’s hard to find other cardio workout equipment that can work your body as hard as indoor rowing, says Brian Dalek.
Contrary to popular belief, rowing requires an equal amount of effort both from your upper and lower body, which makes this activity an extreme cardiovascular fitness exercise.
Jack Nunn, a former member of the U.S.. Under 23 National Team attests to the effectiveness of rowing. He says " Rowing engages your legs, back, core and arms, delivering an intense full-body cardio workout experience".
Rowing is also a great weight loss exercise.
According to Harvard Health, a 125 pounds person can burn 420 calories per hour rowing at a moderate pace and 510 calories at a vigorous intensity. This makes rowing an ideal choice of exercise for weight loss.
Compared to running, rowing is gentler on your knees and hips.
It won’t put as much stress on your knee and hip joints, and for that, rowing is an ideal workout for people of all ages and sizes trying to get in shape.
Take the first step
Ready to get more active, lose weight and get back in shape?
Great. Just remember to start with small steps.
If you haven’t been exercising for a while or if you have a chronic health condition, pay your doctor a visit before you start.
When you're ready to begin exercising again, start slowly.
You might walk five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. That's a good start.
Next time, add a few more minutes and pick up your pace a bit for additional challenge.
Soon, you could be walking briskly for at least 30 minutes a day and reaping all the benefits of regular aerobic activity.
And as you get stronger you can add other options for aerobic exercises like the ones listed above.
It could be aerobic dancing, swimming, stair climbing, bicycling, running, rowing, etc..
If you have any health condition that limits your ability to participate in any of the aerobic activities above, ask your doctor about alternatives.
What’s your favorite aerobic exercise? Have you gotten back in shape doing cardio on the list above? Leave us a comment below to let us know.