Aerobic exercise conditions the cardiovascular system and improves

performance in sports that require endurance, such as running and

jogging. By conditioning the cardiovascular system, aerobics

contributes to overall health and enhances the ability to use oxygen.

Perhaps the best way to describe how aerobics works is to explain

how exercise improves the bodys ability to perform. Depending

on which exercises you do, you may develop strength, endurance,

stamina or power. However, as all sports trainers know, exercise is

specific,which means that specific exercises produce specific

results. For example, exercises designed strictly to improve strength

will not do much to improve your endurance.  On the other hand, if

you train for endurance alone (for example, by doing only long-distance

running), you will not improve your strength significantly. This is

why you often see runners who couldnt bench press 200 pounds if

their lives depended  on it, and champion powerlifters who get out

of breath just running across the street.


Aerobic activity has been around since warm-blooded animals first started

running from predators. But aerobicsas a popular type of exercise

activity came into international popularity in the 1970s and 80s as part of

the fitness movement in the United States.  People wanted to lose weight,

slim down, be healthy, and improve the quality of their lives. Aerobic

training provided a means of accomplishing some of these goals. At first

jogging and running were the most popular forms of aerobic activity.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, James Fixx, and others wrote books on aerobics,

running and the benefits of cardiovascular conditioning. Later, as trainers

became more experienced in the ways in which aerobic benefits could be

achieved and as more and more people were caught up in the fitness

movement and began to join health clubs, different forms of aerobic

training evolved.  One of the most popular forms of aerobic training is

aerobic dance.  Aerobic dance involves stepping, jumping, spinning and

twisting motions that follow the beat of music played on a sound system.

The intensity of this form of exercise can be increased either by increasing

the tempo of the music, or by increasing the number or difficulty of the

dance movements.  Aerobic dance is usually done in large groups, but can

be done alone if desired. One can dance aerobically regardless of the type

of music. However, the most popular aerobic dance music is rock, because

of the fast rhythms and heavy beat. Another form of aerobic training is

called circuit training.”  Exercise machines by Universal, Nautilus, Cybex,

Hydragym, Soloflex and other manufacturers enable a person to move

rapidly from one machine to another with only a brief rest period between

sets. Thus by using light weights and high repetitions on all the movements,

these resistance-exercise machines can become aerobic-exercise machines.


Depending on whether you are training for endurance and aerobic benefits

or for strength, you will work different types of muscle fibers. Muscles are

made up chiefly of two types of fibers: (1) slow-twitch red fibers and (2)

fast-twitch white fibers. The red fibers contract more slowly than the white

fibers, but demand a grater amount of oxygen to do their work.

White fibers contract faster than the reds, but demand less oxygen. 

Aerobic exercise is a type of endurance training, and chiefly works the red

muscle fibers, thus increasing the demand for oxygen. As the oxygen

demand is increased, the cardiovascular system (the heart and lungs) is

forced to work harder. In normal persons who have no cardiovascular

disease, aerobic exercise increases muscular endurance and improves the

ability of the cardiovascularsystem to meet greater oxygen demands.  By

contrast, strength training chiefly works the white muscle fibers. The most

effective method of strength training is done with what is called

progressive resistanceexercises in which both the resistance and the

number of repetitions of the exercise movements are increased over a

specified period of time. In short, working the white muscle fibers with

progressive resistance exercises makes you stronger. So if you want to

improve your muscular strength (lifting heavier weights, etc.), you must do

progressive resistance exercises in which you do a small number of

repetitions with increasing resistance over a short period of time. If you

want to improve the action of your heart and lungs while developing

muscular endurance (running, etc.), you must do aerobic exercises with

many repetitions with less resistance over a long period of time.  But

remember that the best training program is one that includes both aerobic

and strength training.  The aerobic effectof cardiovascular conditioning

is achieved by reaching a target pulse rate. Trainers disagree about which

pulse rate is an appropriate target and how long that pulse rate must be

maintained. For example, Dr. Gabe Mirkin, who does the radio

mini-programs called Dr. Gabe Mirkin on Fitness,says that to achieve

cardiovascular fitness, you must push your heartbeat to more than 60

percent of its maximum for at least 30 minutes three times a week. On the

other hand, Dr. Paul DeVore, in an article, Cardiovascular Benefits of

StrengthTraining Exercises(Iron Man Magazine, July, 1979) holds that the

correct target pulse rate is between 70 and 85 per cent of the maximum

heart rate as figured according to age-adjusted maximal heart rate charts.

According to DeVore, these heart rates need be sustained for only 10 to 12

minutes for aerobic conditioning.  Dr. Kenneth Cooper, in his book,

Aerobics, claims that a target pulse rate of 60 to 85 percent of

maximum should be maintained for between 12 to 30 minutes, and

repeated at least several times a week.  Opinions thus vary about the

number of beats per minute, the length of the workout at the target rate,

and the number of workouts needed per week to achieve cardiovascular

fitness. So dont be surprised if you find contradictory figures from the

many people who write about aerobics and cardiovascular conditioning.


Aerobic exercises are sometimes categorized as high impactand low

impact.”  High-impact exercises involve movements that compress the

ankle, knee and hip joints. Examples would include jogging on pavement

or fast aerobic dancing with repeated jumps, done to a fast tempo on a

hard gym floor. Low-impact exercises are those which do not involve

compressing the joints. An example would be circuit training with

exercise machines, in which movements are done smoothly with no

jumping or sudden pushing motions, or aerobic dancing that does not

involve repeated jumping.


After a few minutes of stretching exercises, start to jog slowly,

gradually increasing your speed. Dont run (dont have bothfeet off the

ground at the same time) and dont shuffle (dont slide your feet). After

a few minutes, look at your watch or pulse meter and increase or

decrease your speed until you reach your target pulse rate. Sustain that

rate for the duration of the session.


Put a fairly fast number on your hi-fi, CD player or radio. Turn the

volume up so you can hear the beat. Warm up, then start slowly with

dance movements or familiar floor exercises to the rhythm of the music.

Make jumping jacks a dance movement by varying the direction of the

jumps. Make twisting movements an aerobic exercise by doing them to

fast music. Check your pulse, achieve the target rate, and sustain that

rate for the duration of the session.


Circuit training involves moving from one exercise machine to another

with little or no rest between machines, until you have completed a

circuit through a specified number of machines. Machines are better

than free weights for circuit training, since you can change the amount

of resistance quickly and easily by placing a pin or turning a dial,

instead of having to load or unload plates and tighten barbell collars. If

you belong to a health club that has a complete line of exercise

machines, do the following:

1. Achieve your target pulse rate by varying the: amount of weight or

resistance number of repetitions speed with which the repetitions are

done duration of each set on a specific machine duration of the rest

period between machines.

2. Use the machines that accomplish the following exercises. Be sure to

do the exercises in the order listed so that you can pace yourself. You

will alternate between large and small muscle mass exercises. Also, you

need to learn two terms that are used in all sports training: extendand

flex.When you straighten your arm or leg (as in a pushing movement),

you EXTEND the arm or leg. When you bend your arm at the elbow or

your leg at the knee, you FLEX the arm at the elbow and flex the leg at

the knee. These handy terms will help you understand the exercises. 

Dont forget to warm up before starting the circuit. Here are the exercises

by their common names, with the movements described in terms of

extending or flexing the limb at the joint. Find a machine that will enable

you to do these movements:


Leg press - Extend the legs at the knees.

Arm curl - Flex the arms at the elbows.

Leg extension - Extend the legs at the knees, swinging the feet in an arc

while keeping the upper legs in the same position.

Bench press - Lie on your back and vertically extend your arms at the


Leg curl - Flex the legs at the knees, keeping the upper leg stationary.

Shoulder shrug - Raise the shoulders vertically while holding a weight or

bottom-pulley machine bar in front of you, starting with

the shoulders down and the arms straight down

Cal raise - Lift your heels and rise up on the balls of your feet.

Then slowly let your heel come back down.

Wide-grip pull-downs - Using a wide grip, grasp a top-pulley machine

bar and slowly pull it down to the top of your chest. Then slowly let

the bar return to the starting position.

Spinal hyperextensions - Lie face down on the floor. Place your hands

together at the small of your back. Contract the back muscles and

arch your body by lifting the chest and the feet off the floor. Keep the

knees straight.

Abdominal crunches - Put your hands across your chest, bend your

knees, and flex the abdominal muscles without raising the small of your

back off the floor. Hold at peak contraction for a count of 5 before

lowering your back to the floor.  These and many other machine

exercises can be incorporated into an aerobics training program. Just

remember that the goal is not to lift heavy weights, but to reach your

target pulse rate and sustain that pulse rate until you have completed

the circuit of machines. Pace yourself. This can be an extremely

exhausting exercise routine, especially if you are not in good shape

and try to do too much.



Wear light clothing that is suitable to the temperature, and which

gives you a full range of movement. For example, wear shorts and a tank

top indoors or during the summer; wear a jogging suit or sweats during

the winter. Dont allow yourself to get either too hot or too cold for

comfort. Overheating can bring on heat stroke. Overcooling can result in

pulled muscles and cramps. Be sure to wear good running or jogging



Wear a jogging suit or a leotard, and a good pair of gym shoes. Be sure

you have a complete range of motion so you can do all the moves. Dont

skimp on footwear. Aerobic dance should NOT be done in ballet slippers.


Most gyms require workout suits that cover the arms and legs. This is to

save the machinescushions and pads from deteriorating because of

perspiration. Also, there is nothing more disgusting than having to do an

exercise while sliding on someone elses sweat. Wear a workout suit that

fits the environment. If your gym is hot, wear something light. If its

cold, wear a sweatsuit. Make sure that you have a good pair of gym

shoes. You will be moving rapidly from machine to machine, and you

will need a firm foundation for exercises such as leg presses and



Aerobics is primarily a form of exercise: namely, an exercise that

conditions the cardiovascular system by increasing the ability to use

oxygen. But human beings have never been satisfied with merely

exercising. Hence, the invention of aerobic dance: a way to do aerobics

and have fun at the same time.  The intensity of this form of exercise

can be increased either by increasing the tempo of the music, or by

increasing the number and difficulty of the dance movements. Aerobic

dance is usually done in large groups, but can be done alone if desired.

Watch out for the group you join: the fitter the group, the more intense

the exercise. If you are a beginner, you may want to start out on your

own and get in shape; or better yet, find a beginners group made up of

other people who are just starting out. Most health club aerobic classes

involve some form of aerobic dancing. it may not be called dancing, but it

involves all the bodily movements of dancing, except that it is faster and

more vigorous.

Heres a typical aerobic dance


1. Put a fairly fast number on your hi-fi, CD player or radio. Turn

the volume up so you can hear the beat.

2. Warm up, then start slowly with dance movements or familiar floor

exercises to the rhythm of the music.

3. Make jumping jacks a dance movement by varying the direction

of the jumps.

4. Make twisting movements an aerobic movement by doing

them to fast music. 

Check your pulse, achieve the target rate, and sustain that rate for the

duration of the dance session.  If you are interested in learning more

about Aerobics, you might take a look on the internet at these websites:

Here you will not only learn about the latest steps but also see what in going on with


Aerobics is an excellent form of exercise and can be done almost anywhere. Give this

conditioning technique a try if you havent already tried it.


The following questions will help you to have a greater appreciation

and understanding of aerobics. Write your answers in the spaces below

the questions. If there is not enough room, write on the backs of these

sheets. Be neat, spell correctly, and write in complete sentences.

1. What are some of the physical benefits to be derived from aerobics?

2. What type of muscle fibers does aerobic training chiefly work?

3. What does it mean to say that exercise is specific?

4. What is a target pulse rate? Explain.

5. Describe how dancing can be done as an aerobic exercise.

6. Explain the difference between extending and flexing your arm at

the elbow.

7. Why is running or jogging a good aerobic exercise? Explain.

8. What is the difference between high-impact and low-impact aerobics?

9. What is circuit training and how can it be aerobic?

10. Explain why a good exercise program should include both aerobic

and resistance training.

Short Answer Questions:

1. The term used for describing the bending of an arm or a leg.

2. They are made of two types of fibers.

3. You can achieve your target pulse rate by varying the number of these.

4. The arm _______ flexes the arms at the elbows.

5. These muscle fibers do not require as much oxygen.

6. He wrote a book on aerobics.

7. This type of training works primarily with the white muscle fibers.

8. The leg ______ extends the legs at the knees.

9. Aerobic exercises help the bodys ability to use this element .

10. The term used to describe the straightening of your arm or leg.

11. This is one popular brand of exercise machine.

12. This was the most popular form of aerobic exercise in the early

years of aerobics.

13. This organ is one part of the cardiovascular system.

14. This exercise conditions the cardiovascular system.

15. Aerobic exercise became part of this movement in the 1970s.

16. This accompanies aerobic dance.

17. A specific exercise produces this type of result.

18. This type of training involves moving from one exercise machine

to another with little rest.

19. If you just train for strength, you will not improve this.

20. These muscle fibers contract more slowly.