The most recent guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise five days a week or 20 minutes of high intensity aerobic exercise three days a week to maintain good health and reduce your risk of chronic disease. For aerobic workouts, 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate is generally the zone you should reach and sustain to get the most benefits.

Cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death in America. Associated with physical inactivity, high cholesterol, blood pressure, and smoking, cardiovascular disease accounts for approximately 36 percent of all U.S. deaths. There is, however, a remarkably easy remedy. Physical activity continues to be the most effective way to combat coronary heart disease. Aerobic exercise improves the fitness of the heart and lungs. Yet surveys show that nearly one-third of Americans are not active at all despite these benefits.

The Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

If you have yet to embrace an active lifestyle, take note of these other perks of aerobic exercise:

  • Mental benefits: Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase your confidence, emotional stability, memory, and brain function. Studies show that about 19 million Americans experience depression every year. It is widely accepted that aerobic exercise improves the symptoms of depression.
  • Health benefits: Besides strengthening your heart and lungs, aerobic exercise can help lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of Type 2 Diabetes, improve your immune function, and lower your blood pressure.
  • Physical benefits: Aerobic exercise burns up calories, which can in turn help you shed excess weight. Aerobic exercise also tones your muscles and improves posture.
  • Fitness benefits: In addition to looking better and being healthier, aerobic exercise increases your stamina, giving you more energy for both work and play. You will sleep better and handle stress better, and you’ll feel better about yourself.

Getting Started With Aerobic Exercise

Now that you are aware of all the reasons aerobic exercise should be part of your healthy lifestyle, how about getting started? Before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have health issues, talk to your doctor. Choose activities that you enjoy. Walking, biking, hiking, dancing, even raking leaves can supply aerobic exercise. Here are six tips to remember:

  1. As you get the recommended 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise five days a week, you should be exercising at a level that just lets you keep up a conversation during the activity.
  2. If you’re healthy enough to exercise at a high intensity, make sure you’re not exceeding your target heart rate. You can find your target rate by subtracting your age from 220, then multiplying that number by 70 percent (.70).
  3. Drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your workouts.
  4. Include warm-up and cool-down periods in your aerobics exercise routines.
  5. Avoid high-intensity aerobic activity for one to two hours after eating.
  6. Skip your workouts when you’re ill or overtired.

Research shows that aerobic exercise is beneficial even if it’s done in shorter segments throughout the day. Even if you have a busy schedule, you can find time for several 10-minute periods of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.

Start with a lighter volume of aerobic exercise and gradually work your way toward some specific goals. Maintain a sensible nutrition program and keep exercise in perspective. Find a level of aerobic exercise that is safe and effective for you and make it something that you enjoy. To stay motivated, you can exercise with a friend, your spouse, or your children. Make aerobic exercise a regular part of a healthier lifestyle for you and your loved ones.

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