The Different Kinds of Aerobic Exercise

Water running gets your heart working at a high-impact rate with no impact on the joints.
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Aerobic exercise gets your heart pumping and your lungs moving. It targets your large muscle groups and is generally rhythmic in nature. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week. In general, there are two main categories for aerobic exercise, based on its impact on the joints.


    High-impact aerobics means that there is an increased load on the joints. In high-impact aerobics, both feet are off the ground at once, resulting in a jarring impact on the joints when the feet return to take another step. Examples of high-impact aerobics include jogging, running and any activity that requires regular jumping, such as basketball.


    Low-impact aerobics is just how it sounds. The impact on your joints is minimal. One or both feet remain on the ground to support your body weight. In this way, the jarring impact on the joints is reduced. Examples of this type of low-impact aerobic exercise include walking and bike riding. Water aerobics and swimming also qualify. The natural buoyancy provided by the water reduces the impact on the joints, yet allows for the aerobic effect on the heart and lungs. For example, running is considered a high-impact aerobic activity, yet water running provides a similar cardiovascular workout while providing little to no impact on the joints.

Studies on Aerobic Exercise

    Both forms of aerobic activity have their benefits. A 2002 study published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine” showed that regular aerobic activity reduced blood pressure and cardiovascular risk. Looking specifically at high-impact aerobics, a 2013 study published in “Bone” showed that high-impact exercise improved femoral neck bone mineral density in men, while a 2012 study published in “Physiotherapy Canada” showed that high-impact exercise did the same thing in premenopausal women.


    Before considering a new aerobic program, consult a physician. Based on your medical history, she may recommend that you avoid high-impact aerobics. This is especially true if you have joint problems such as arthritis. The recommended 150 or 75 minutes per week of aerobic activity can be broken down into smaller workouts. Edward Laskowski, M.D. states that there is no evidence that longer workouts provide a better workout than shorter ones. A workout as short as 10 minutes still provides health benefits. Try to meet the recommended time per week, even if that means three 10-minute workouts a day, five days a week.

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