Aerobic exercise makes you breathe faster and take in more oxygen. The better your conditioning, the better your heart, lungs and circulatory system deliver that oxygen, providing you with the energy and endurance to handle physical challenges and stay healthy. The American College of Sports Medicine reports that the primary goals of aerobic exercise are good health, lower risk of disease, fitness and weight management. You might choose those and more as targets for your cardio conditioning.
Improving cardiovascular fitness is the first goal of aerobic conditioning and benchmarks are dependent on your existing level of fitness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults should spend at least 150 minutes each week in moderate-intensity aerobic activity like brisk walking or riding a bike. For greater health benefits or weight loss, double that amount of time and increase intensity as you become more fit. Jogging and swimming laps give your heart a harder workout and will tone, trim and toughen you, boosting endurance and energy. The American College of Sports Medicine advises to exercise at 55 to 64 percent of your maximum heart rate if you're out of shape, up to 90 percent of maximum heart rate if you are very fit. Your aerobic conditioning program is built on how often, how long and how hard you exercise. If you decrease the intensity level, even if you increase frequency or duration, cardiovascular fitness declines.
Aerobic conditioning is a key factor in losing or managing weight. Calories expended counts as much as calories consumed and aerobic exercise burns calories. The American Council on Exercise reports that about 60 percent of the calories you burn during low-intensity exercise are fat, compared to only 35 percent during vigorous workouts. But do the math correctly to achieve your weight goals. Low-intensity workouts burn a higher percentage of fat but they burn far fewer calories than high-intensity exercise in comparable amounts of time. To drop pounds and inches while walking or cycling, you'll have to keep moving longer than you would for sprinting or cross-country skiing. Longer and lighter may suit your lifestyle and help you to stick to an aerobic conditioning routine. Set realistic goals for working out to increase your chances of reaching them.
Disease and Injury Prevention
Regular, vigorous activity can help you live longer and lower your risks for injury and disease. Aerobic exercise stimulates your immune system, reducing your chances of catching a cold or flu, and cuts your risks for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and some cancers, according to MayoClinic.com. Boost your heart rate and break a sweat to lower high blood pressure and arterial plaque, control blood sugar and prevent a repeat heart attack. Add sport-specific aerobic workouts to help prevent injuries. Smart injury prevention also includes a consultation with your health care provider before beginning a serious aerobic conditioning program. And, once you have a green light, include some long-range planning in your conditioning goals: 30 minutes of cardio, three times a week, reduces cognitive decline as you age.
Stressing your body aids in controlling and reducing stress. Harvard Medical School reports that is not a contradiction -- aerobic exercise heats you up while it helps you to chill. Cardio affects your brain by reducing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin and increasing feel-good chemicals like endorphins. You can jog right out of a low mood into a "runner's high" and experience positive emotions and a sense of relaxation after a hard workout. Maintaining a high state of aerobic conditioning contributes to mental health by elevating mood and instilling greater self-confidence, based on improved stamina, a strong and toned body, higher energy levels and enhanced optimism. Expect greater emotional equanimity as a benefit of your aerobic conditioning.