Aerobic exercise is any activity that increases your oxygen intake and your heart rate. It is also the most effective form of exercise for weight loss.
Walking, running, rollerblading, swimming, dancing, cross country skiing, tennis, hopscotch, and raking leaves are all forms of aerobic activity. However, when most of us talk about aerobics we are usually discussing one of the many varieties of aerobic workouts that can be found at health clubs and community classes. In addition to the original aerobic dance classes that use a mixture of dance and calisthenics, the list now includes step aerobics, slide aerobics, and workouts that borrow from boxing and martial arts. You will also find movement classes to suit your musical preference, be it jazz, hip-hop, or funk.
Sign up for a class or rent a video and don’t worry about what you do or don’t know. Both the class and video instructors will guide you through all the steps of the workout. There are a myriad of classes and thousands of videos to choose from so you can be sure to find an aerobic workout to match your style and level, from beginner through advanced.
When you perform aerobic exercise, you repeatedly contract large muscle groups such as your legs and arms. The focus is on continuous movement and an elevated heart rate as you work one muscle group and then another. This tones your muscles and burns calories.
Surprisingly, if your aerobic workout is low to moderately intense and of long duration, you will burn more fat than if you had participated in a short burst of high intensity exercise. For instance, a brisk 30-minute walk will burn more fat than a 100-yard sprint.
You will also find that you have greater stamina when performing other aerobic activities.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Most aerobic programs will include a warm-up and cool-down period. If yours doesn’t, walk to class or around the block, ride a stationary bike slowly, or mildly run in place. You should begin to perspire and feel your heart rate increase within five to ten minutes. Your muscles are now warm enough for a gentle stretch and to start your workout. Stretching the major muscle groups helps to prevent injuries. The major muscle groups are the Biceps, Triceps, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Calves, and Gluteus muscles.
To cool down, walk around the studio or ride the stationary bike at a slow pace. The aim is to allow a gradual decrease in your heart rate. Stretch the same muscle groups again to sustain flexibility and to avoid soreness.
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