The term aerobic means "with oxygen," and is used to describe exercise which requires increased levels of oxygen to supply energy to the large muscles. An aerobic workout involves a sustained period of repetitive activity which elevates the heart rate. In order to increase the heart rate high enough to qualify as an aerobic workout, the activity must be sustained for 20 to 30 minutes.
The name for this type of exercise was first used by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, an exercise physiologist who developed a workout program for astronauts to help prevent coronary artery disease. In 1968 he compiled those methods into a book titled Aerobics for use by the general public. Over the years, this form of exercise has expanded and changed, but is now widely recommended by health practitioners as both preventative and therapeutic.
Some examples of aerobic workout activities include walking, jogging, running, biking, cycling, cross-country skiing, swimming and rowing. Workouts may also include snow shoveling, dancing, kick-boxing, stair-stepping, and other creative routines. Any of these activities can be combined to make an aerobic workout more interesting
An ideal aerobic workout will bring a person’s heart rate up to 50 percent or more of their maximum heart rate (MHR), or the most beats a heart can make in a minute. The maximum heart rate can vary, but is generally calculated by subtracting a person’s age from 220. For example, a 40-year-old would have an MHR of around 180, while a 20-year-old would have an MHR of 200. A newcomer to aerobics will probably need to set more achievable goals in the beginning, and gradually increase the intensity of his workout once his body becomes more conditioned to the exercise.
One of the primary benefits of an aerobic workout is improved cardiovascular health. Like any muscle, the heart responds positively to exercise. Aerobics increases the efficiency of the heart, resulting in lower blood pressure and a lower resting pulse. It increases the efficiency of coagulation, or blood clotting, after injury and reduces the amount of plaque in the arteries and triglycerides in the blood stream. Regular aerobic exercise also reduces the bad cholesterol, called LDL, and increases the good cholesterol, called HDL.
An aerobic workout can also significantly reduce the chances of developing Type II diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and reducing body weight. If a person has already been diagnosed with diabetes, then exercise should be considered a primary component of the treatment plan. Combining daily exercise and proper diet can often alleviate the need for medications and prevent some of the long-term negative side effects of the disease.
If a person has a fairly sedentary lifestyle, it is important to check with a doctor before beginning a vigorous exercise program. Time must also be allotted to every workout for a warm up and cool down. Warm ups involve stretching the muscles, which makes them warmer and more resistant to injury. Once the sustained period of high intensity exercise is finished, it is important to gradually cool down, and not just stop abruptly, to prevent a person from becoming lightheaded and dizzy.