Aerobic Activity

Aerobic Activity

Aerobic activity is an important addition to moderate-intensity
exercise. Aerobic exercise is any extended activity that makes you
breathe hard while using the large muscle groups at a regular, even
pace. Aerobic activities help make your heart stronger and more
efficient. They also use more calories than other activities. Some
examples of aerobic activities include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Racket sports
  • Rowing
  • Ice or roller skating
  • Cross-country or downhill skiing
  • Using aerobic equipment (i.e., treadmill, stationary bike)

To get the most health benefits from aerobic activity, you should
exercise at a level strenuous enough to raise your heart rate to your
target zone. Your target heart rate zone is 50 to 75 percent of your
maximum heart rate (the fastest your heart can beat). To find your
target zone, look for the category closest to your age in the chart
below and read across the line. For example, if you are 35 years old,
your target heart rate zone is 93-138 beats per minute.

Age Target Heart Rate Zone 50-75% Average Maximum Heart Rate 100%
20-30 years 98-146
beats per min.
31-40 years 93-138 beats per min. 185
41-50 years 88-131
beats per min.
51-60 years 83-123
beats per min.
61+ years 78-116
beats per min

To see if you are exercising within your target heart rate zone, count
the number of pulse beats at your wrist or neck for 15 seconds, then
multiply by four to get the beats per minute. Your heart should be
beating within your target heart rate zone. If your heart is beating
faster than your target heart rate, you are exercising too hard and
should slow down. If your heart is beating slower than your target heart
rate, you should exercise a little harder.

When you begin your exercise program, aim for the lower part of your
target zone (50 percent). As you get into better shape, slowly build up
to the higher part of your target zone (75 percent). If exercising
within your target zone seems too hard, exercise at a pace that is
comfortable for you. You will find that, with time, you will feel more
comfortable exercising and can slowly increase to your target zone.

Stretching and Muscle Strengthening Exercises

Stretching and strengthening exercises such as weight training should
also be a part of your physical activity program. In addition to using
calories, these exercises strengthen your muscles and bones and help
prevent injury.

The Weight-control Information Network (WIN) is a service of the
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
(NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. WIN provides
information on weight control, obesity, and nutritional disorders. WIN
responds to requests for information; develops, reviews, and distributes
publications; and develops communications strategies to encourage
individuals to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

last updated: 10 February 2022

last update: February 2009

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