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Aerobic Exercises: A Roadmap To A Healthy Heart

Apr 30, 2024

5 min read

Read all about the exercises that get your heart pumping and your lungs breathing to keep you strong, fit and healthy.

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Television shows women doing aerobics.
A portrait of the author, Dr Medha Gupta

DR MEDHA

GUPTA

The only place where Vidhi (name changed) can tolerate the heat and sweat of Mumbai is her aerobics class, and her body thanks her for it. As the name suggests, aerobic exercise is a form of workout that requires oxygen in abundance. That happens when you force your body to breathe harder. From brisk walking to fun Zumba and more intense HIIT workouts— aerobic exercises include a large list of popular workouts. The sad part is that research, like this study, talks about how Asian Indians are less likely to meet their aerobic targets by 22% and muscle-strengthening exercise targets by 18%. Read on to learn why aerobic exercises are a fantastic way to boost your health.

What are aerobic exercises? 

Aerobic exercises are often known as cardio. These workouts pump up your heart rate to hasten the blood flow and increase the amount of oxygen you breathe in. Whether you're jogging, swimming, or jumping rope, aerobic activities move big muscle groups like the glutes and the hamstrings and with every step, jump, or kick, your muscles work harder, boosting your metabolism and torching those calories. 

Aerobic exercises target three benefits at once:
1 - Building muscle strength
2 - Increasing body stamina
3 - Burning excess fat

How do aerobic exercises benefit you?

Here are the aerobic exercise benefits for you in a nutshell:

Improved heart health

Aerobic exercises exert the heart muscles, eventually powering up their strength & endurance. This improves its ability to pump blood (better oxygen supply) efficiently throughout the body. A strong heart with healthy blood vessels has a lesser risk of cardiovascular diseases (CAD), such as heart attacks and strokes.

Rectifying your lipid profile 

A flawless lipid (cholesterol) profile is a game-changer for those vulnerable to CAD. Regular aerobic exercise helps to reduce levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) as well as triglycerides while raising levels of good cholesterol (HDL) that do not deposit to form plaque blockages in the arteries. Unobstructed blood flow prevents strokes, heart attacks, and problems of high blood pressure (hypertension) too.

Better lung function

Cardio is instrumental to lung function and efficiency. It makes you breathe faster, deeper, and more consistently. This facilitates amazing respiratory health and a top-notch oxygen supply.

Weight management

Aerobic exercises exert muscles and boost metabolism, thereby burning calories. So, they are a powerful tool for weight management. They help to burn fat, build lean muscle mass, and maintain a healthy body weight, provided you remember to add diet planning and a good night’s sleep to your routine.

An instant mood booster

Needless to say, cardio is an instant mood elevator. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins, or the "feel-good" hormones. This reduces stress, anxiety, and depression in the long run. It improves mood and overall mental health. 

Common aerobic exercises to begin with

As a beginner or a cardio pro, it is advisable to begin all aerobic exercise routines with advice from your general physician and fitness trainer. Heart issues, hypertension, and orthopaedic histories, if any, need to be considered before setting the aerobic tone for you. 

Walking:

Walking is a low-impact exercise suitable for beginners and those recovering from injuries, as it gently strengthens muscles, improves cardiovascular endurance, and burns calories. Start slow, brisk, and gradually pace up. Jogging is another beginner-friendly option for aerobic workouts. 

Running:

Running is a popular cardiovascular exercise that needs to be tailored to different fitness levels. So is the childhood fun play of skipping-a-rope. They are high-impact aerobic workouts that spike all muscle groups. 

Interval training:

Interval training, which involves alternating high-intensity running interspersed with periods of active recovery or walking, is another effective way to improve speed and endurance while burning calories. 

Common terms: Aerobic fitness, endurance, and stamina

When reading about aerobic exercises, you might come across three distinct terms: aerobic fitness, stamina and endurance. Let’s understand each.

Aerobic fitness measures how well your body uses oxygen, while endurance is about how long your muscles can keep going during exercise. Unlike aerobic fitness, endurance isn't measured directly using tests. Why? 

Endurance focuses more on how your muscles work overtime rather than on how much oxygen they can use quickly. Improving endurance means making your muscles better at using oxygen, which can be important for staying healthy and preventing injuries, especially in sports.

Stamina, on the other hand, is the capacity, both physical and mental, to stay energetic and continue doing an activity. It does not pinpoint muscle strength or its capacity. 

Improving aerobic fitness and endurance is vital for athletes to prevent injuries. Training should be tailored to a specific sport, starting with general fitness and stamina buildup and progressing to specific endurance work. 

Remember, if you stop training, your aerobic fitness and endurance can decrease quickly, so it's important to stay consistent with your workouts for the best performance.  That’s why you need to choose a kind of aerobic exercise that you can sustain and continue on a regular basis. 

Aerobic exercise: A starting point to a healthier you

Neil Welch, Research and Rehab Testing Services at UPMC | PhD, Strength & Conditioning, in his article ' The Power of Aerobic Exercise in Preventing Weight Gain’, says, "In essence, aerobic exercise isn't solely about shedding pounds; it's about cultivating a healthier body composition, revving up your metabolism, and optimising your overall well-being.”

Rightly so. Knowing what aerobic exercises are is perhaps a good motivation to begin your fitness journey, but it may not be the only one for you.  What’s important is to treat the mind and body as one unit and work towards keeping them fit and functioning.  So lace up those sneakers, and get moving!

Medically Reviewed by:
Dr Sujata Chakravarti - Family Physician and trainer


A portrait of the author, Dr Medha Gupta

Dr Medha Gupta, a Prosthodontist and Implantologist with over six years of clinical experience, is also a Medical Communication Expert in India and the EU. Her expertise lies in transcribing complex medical and dental information into words that resonate with the audience, our readers. As a healthcare business writer and reviewer, she boosts brand credibility for medical/dental practitioners and HealthTech firms by speaking the ‘founder’s mind’ across marketing and sales platforms.


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