Aerobic exercise (also known as endurance activities, cardio or cardio-respiratory exercise) is physical exercise of low to high intensity that depends primarily on the aerobic energy-generating process. "Aerobic" is defined as "relating to, involving, or requiring free oxygen", and refers to the use of oxygen to adequately meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism. Aerobic exercise is performed by repeating sequences of light-to-moderate intensity activities for extended periods of time. Aerobic exercise may be better referred to as "solely aerobic", as it is designed to be low-intensity enough that all carbohydrates are aerobically turned into energy via mitochondrial ATP production. Mitochondria are organelles that rely on oxygen for the metabolism of carbs, proteins, and fats.
Archibald Hill, a British physiologist, introduced the concepts of maximal oxygen uptake and oxygen debt in 1922. German physician Otto Meyerhof and Hill shared the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their independent work related to muscle energy metabolism. Building on this work, scientists began measuring oxygen consumption during exercise. Notable contributions were made by Henry Taylor at the University of Minnesota and Scandinavian scientists Per-Olof Åstrand and Bengt Saltin in the 1950s and 60s. Contributions were also made by the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory, Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre as well as various German universities.
After World War II, health-oriented recreational activities such as jogging became popular. The Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans, developed by Dr. Bill Orban and published in 1961, helped to launch modern fitness culture. In the 1970s, there was a running boom. It was inspired by the Olympics, the New-York marathon and the advent of cushioned shoes.
Physical therapists Col. Pauline Potts and Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, both of the United States Air Force, advocated the concept of aerobic exercise. In the 1960s, Cooper started research into preventive medicine. He conducted the first extensive research on aerobic exercise on over 5,000 U.S. Air Force personnel after becoming intrigued by the belief that exercise can preserve one's health. Cooper published his ideas in a 1968 book titled, "Aerobics". In 1970, he created his own institute (the Cooper Institute) for non-profit research and education devoted to preventive medicine. He published a mass-market version of his book "The New Aerobics" in 1979. Cooper encouraged millions into becoming active and is now known as the "father of aerobics". Cooper's book inspired Jacki Sorensen to create aerobic dancing exercise routines which grew in popularity in the 1970s in the U.S., and at the same time, Judi Missett developed and expanded Jazzercise. Aerobics at home became popular worldwide after the release of Jane Fonda's Workout exercise video in 1982. Step aerobics was popular in the 1990s, driven by a step product and program from Reebok shoes.
What qualifies as aerobic exercise
This section needs additional citations for verification. (October 2011)
Aerobic exercise comprises innumerable forms. In general, it is performed at a moderate level of intensity over a relatively long period of time. For example, running a long distance at a moderate pace is an aerobic exercise, but sprinting is not. Playing singles tennis, with near-continuous motion, is generally considered aerobic activity, while golf or two person team tennis, with brief bursts of activity punctuated by more frequent breaks, may not be predominantly aerobic. Some sports are thus inherently "aerobic", while other aerobic exercises, such as fartlek training or aerobic dance classes, are designed specifically to improve aerobic capacity and fitness. It is most common for aerobic exercises to involve the leg muscles, primarily or exclusively. There are some exceptions. For example, rowing to distances of 2,000 meters or more is an aerobic sport that exercises several major muscle groups, including those of the legs, abdominals, chest, and arms.
Examples of Aerobic Exercise
- Hiking on flat ground
- Bicycling at less than 10 mph
- Moderate walking (about 3.5 mph)
- Downhill skiing
- Tennis (doubles)
- Light yard work
- Brisk walking (about 4.5 mph)
- Bicycling at more than 10 mph
- Hiking uphill
- Cross-country skiing
- Stair climbing
- Jumping rope
- Tennis (singles)
- Heavy yard work
Aerobic versus anaerobic exercise
Aerobic exercise and fitness can be contrasted with anaerobic exercise, of which strength training and short-distance running are the most salient examples. The two types of exercise differ by the duration and intensity of muscular contractions involved, as well as by how energy is generated within the muscle.
New research on the endocrine functions of contracting muscles has shown that both aerobic and anaerobic exercise promote the secretion of myokines, with attendant benefits including growth of new tissue, tissue repair, and various anti-inflammatory functions, which in turn reduce the risk of developing various inflammatory diseases. Myokine secretion in turn is dependent on the amount of muscle contracted, and the duration and intensity of contraction. As such, both types of exercise produce endocrine benefits.
In almost all conditions, anaerobic exercise is accompanied by aerobic exercises because the less efficient anaerobic metabolism must supplement the aerobic system due to energy demands that exceed the aerobic system's capacity. Common kettlebell exercises combine aerobic and anaerobic aspects. Allowing 24 hours of recovery between aerobic and strength exercise leads to greater fitness.
- Strengthening the muscles involved in respiration, to facilitate the flow of air in and out of the lungs
- Strengthening and enlarging the heart muscle, to improve its pumping efficiency and reduce the resting heart rate, known as aerobic conditioning
- Improving circulation efficiency and reducing blood pressure
- Increasing pain tolerance
- Increasing the total number of red blood cells in the body, facilitating transport of oxygen
- Improving mental health, including reducing stress and lowering the incidence of depression, as well as increased cognitive capacity.
- Slight reductions in depression may also be observed, if aerobic exercises are used as additional treatment for patients with a hematological malignancy 
- Reducing the risk for diabetes (One meta-analysis has shown, from multiple conducted studies, that aerobic exercise does help lower Hb A1Clevels for type 2 diabetics.)
- Reducing the risk of death due to cardiovascular problems
- Reducing risk for heart disease, blood clots, and stroke
- Lowers total cholesterol
- Raises high-density lipoprotein, or "good cholesterol"
- Promotes weight loss
- Prevents bone loss
High-impact aerobic activities (such as jogging or using a skipping rope) can:
- Stimulate bone growth
- Reduce the risk of osteoporosis for both men and women
Body performance benefits
In addition to the health benefits of aerobic exercise, there are numerous performance benefits:
- Increasing storage of energy molecules such as fats and carbohydrates within the muscles, allowing for increased endurance
- Neovascularization of the muscle sarcomeres to increase blood flow through the muscles
- Increasing speed at which aerobic metabolism is activated within muscles, allowing a greater portion of energy for intense exercise to be generated aerobically
- Improving the ability of muscles to use fats during exercise, preserving intramuscular glycogen
- Enhancing the speed at which muscles recover from high intensity exercise
- Maintains independence
- Improvement in brain structural connections
- Increase in gray matter density
- New neuron growth
- Improvement in cognitive function (cognitive control and various forms of memory)
- Improves mental wellness by relieving stress, tension, anxiety, and depression
- Boosts energy level
- Improves sleep quality
- Improves self-image and confidence
Some drawbacks of aerobic exercise include:
- Overuse injuries because of repetitive, high-impact exercise such as distance running
- Is not an effective approach to building muscle
- Not an effective form of fat loss, unless used consistently
Both the health benefits and the performance benefits, or "training effect", require that the duration and the frequency of exercise both exceed a certain minimum. Most authorities suggest at least twenty minutes performed at least three times per week.
For older adults
The NIA recommends a number of measures for safety during aerobic exercise:
- Light activity as a warm up and a cool down.
- Endurance activities should not cause dizziness, chest pain or pressure, or a feeling like heartburn.
- Drinking of liquids while exercising, unless instructed otherwise by a doctor.
- Awareness of your surroundings when exercising outdoors.
- Dressing in layers to allow addition or removal of clothes as needed for hot and cold weather.
- Use of safety equipment, such as a helmet when bicycling, to prevent injuries.
Activities similar to aerobic exercise
- Higher intensity exercise, such as High-intensity interval training (HIIT), increases the resting metabolic rate (RMR) in the 24 hours following high intensity exercise, ultimately burning more calories than lower intensity exercise; low intensity exercise burns more calories during the exercise, due to the increased duration, but fewer afterwards.
Success in aerobic exercise businesses
Aerobic exercise has long been a popular approach to achieving weight loss and physical fitness, often taking a commercial form.
- In the 1970s, Judi Sheppard Missett helped create the market for commercial aerobics with her Jazzercise program, at the same time as Jacki Sorensen was expanding her system of aerobic dancing.
- In the 1980s, Richard Simmons hosted an aerobic exercise show on television, and followed Jane Fonda's lead by releasing a series of exercise videos.
- In the 1990s, Billy Blanks's Tae Bo helped popularize cardio-boxing workouts that incorporated martial arts movements. Reebok shoes popularized step aerobics with their Reebok Step device and training program.
Types of aerobic exercise
- 5BX, for men
- XBX, for women
- Anaerobic exercise
- High-intensity interval training
- Endurance training
- Exercise physiology
- Cellular respiration
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aerobic exercise.|
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