“Aerobic” means “with oxygen,” and describes exercises that force your body to fuel your muscles through oxygen. It does this through blood – an aerobic exercise is one that makes your heart pump, which in turn brings blood and oxygen to your muscles and fuels them through the exercise.
There are two main components of aerobic fitness – your heart’s raw strength, and your body’s ability to use oxygen, the latter of which is called your VO2 max. As a point of comparison, you can think of the raw strength as an engine’s power to fire pistons at force while the VO2 max is its “fuel efficiency,” or ability to do more with less.
Aerobic exercises need to work your entire body in a sustained fashion in order to be as effective as possible.
Continuous exercise needs to be between 40 and 60 minutes long and be at a moderate pace. By the end, your heart should be beating faster than it does when you’re walking or sitting, and you should have a sweat on, but you should also be able to converse with someone. If you work harder than this your body will burn carbs for energy rather than use oxygen, and while this is good, it’s not the goal of aerobic fitness strength training.
Interval training involves working at a moderate level (as you did in continuous exercise) for around five minutes, then either speeding up or increasing the intensity for a short interval of around thirty seconds. Then you should slow back down to the moderate pace for a minute or two (depending on your fitness level), and repeat for around 20 minutes.
Exercising like this keeps the total exercise aerobic in nature, but the extremely hard work in the intervals forces your heart to beat faster than it could during a long, continuous exercise. This strengthens its ability to pump large amounts at once and with it your aerobic fitness strengthens.
There are a number of ways to apply the concepts mentioned above, and none of them necessarily involve gym memberships or equipment. Running, for example, can be done anywhere and does not require much by way of equipment; the same goes for swimming (although you can’t swim in as many places as you can run, despite the fact that the world is 70 percent water. One of life’s little oddities).
Some aerobics require more complex movements that work your whole body more effectively and efficiently but also require more skill and/or instruction in order to carry out. Some examples of these include yoga, boxing and dancing, all of which tend to have classes taught by qualified instructors to ensure that you work hard and carry out the movements correctly.