Aerobic Exercise

  • Medical Author:
    Richard Weil, MEd, CDE

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

What aerobic equipment is involved?

Rowers, treadmills, bikes, and cross-country skiers are all effective if you use them. There is some suggestion that some individuals are more inclined to exercise at home with equipment than at the gym or a class. The activity you choose is a personal choice and it varies for everyone, and so you need to experiment until you find what works best for you. Some individuals prefer to go to the gym while others are perfectly content to work out at home on their own equipment in front of their TV. TV can make the time pass quickly, and so can your favorite movie, music, scholarly courses taught by professors, or books on tape (see resources for online vendors). Finding something that will distract you might just make that 30-minute workout bearable, and believe it or not you might even look forward to it! After all, it could be the only 30 minutes in your day that you have all to yourself. Indulge! Aerobic exercise videos and DVDs are also effective if you use them! They are convenient if you prefer to work out at home instead of taking a class at a studio or a gym, and there are hundreds to choose from. I suggest that you check out Collage Video (, or give them a call and ask for a recommendation. Also check if your local library rents exercise videos on tape or DVD. And by the way, there are videos for all types of activity; from weight training, to tai-chi, to stretching. Check out all the possibilities to add flexibility and strength-building to your cardio workout.

What are the different types of aerobics classes?

Step, funk-fusion, hip-hop, jazz, kick box, boot camp, cardio box...There are dozens of classes to choose from. They last anywhere from 30-60 minutes and vary in intensity. Here's some advice for choosing classes:

  1. Classes are generally rated as beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Choose the level that fits your condition. It's no fun taking an advanced class if you're a beginner. It will be hard and frustrating and you won't enjoy the experience. Watch the class or speak with the instructor to help you decide what's right for you. Sometimes it comes down to the class time that fits your schedule, but just be sure to not get in too far over your head.
  2. Low-impact classes mean that one foot always stays on the ground. They are less intense than high-impact and may be more suitable if you are a beginner. Some classes are now called, "high-low" or "mixed-impact" which means they combine low and high-impact moves. Again, speak with the instructor if you're not sure.
  3. High-impact means both feet leave the ground, so there will be jumping and balance moves. Stick with lower-impact and more gentle and rhythmic dance classes if you are concerned about the pounding (low back problems, knee arthritis, or other joint injuries).
  4. Experiment until you find the classes that work best for you.

Classes are great for people who like to exercise with others, who like to dance, who like music and rhythm, who want the extra motivation and energy that an instructor and class provides, and who prefer the structure and schedule of a regular class. Classes, equipment, and videos are all great ways to stay fit and healthy, but if you're limited by injury or other conditions, then aerobic exercise chair workouts may be just the thing (see resources for online vendors). The instructor leads you through a workout in a chair and it's great exercise. You might not need chair exercise, but you may have a parent or friend who does. Exercise videos and DVDs make great gifts!

The bottom line to equipment, classes, and videos is that if they get your heart rate elevated and keep it there, then it's aerobic and it counts!

That's it!

There you have it. Aerobic exercise is awesome stuff! It strengthens your heart, adds strength to your muscles and makes them more efficient fuel-burners, increases your endurance and your energy, improves your mood, makes you fit and healthy, and much, much more. It could take as little as 30 minutes out of your day for a tremendous payoff so I suggest giving it a shot. Follow my advice for getting started by doing only what is realistic and build up slowly. You have only health and fitness to gain, and you're worth it! Good luck!

What resources are available to people interested in aerobics?

Medically reviewed by Martin E Zipser, MD; American Board of Surgery


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