Aerobic exercise is exercise that moves the larger muscles freely, generates heat in the body, and thus burns up oxygen: Aerobic exercise generally makes you breathe more heavily than you would at rest and causes you to work up a little bit of a sweat.
There's no great straining or grunting and groaning involved. It's not weight lifting, nor doing push–ups and pull–ups. And unless you've been exercising a lot the level of aerobic exercise that's appropriate for you will be fairly easy. It's certainly not going to totally exhaust you and wipe you out. In fact, over time, the more you do of it the harder it will be to wipe you out.
Aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, running, skating, swimming, cycling (even on a stationary cycle), cross–country skiing, and even dancing. There are classes in most communities with names like Aerobic Dance, or Jazzercise, and you can get your exercise there. Check with the YMCA or a local health club. Usually there's music playing and a leader in the room and you can work up quite a sweat dancing or jumping around in time to the beat. For seniors with arthritis of the knees and hips, movement exercises in a warm water pool are very popular.
Most of these organized activities cost money, though—whereas walking and jogging are free. I used to prefer jogging and running, because I could go anywhere in the world, and all I needed was a pair of shoes and some workout clothes and I could exercise every day of the year. Now in my senior years I’m a dedicated walker, with my Rottweiler, twice a day for about 45–60 minutes.
If you want, you can get a treadmill for your house and keep it in the garage or basement. The motorized ones cost about one thousand dollars or more. But they're really nice! You can set them at a certain incline and speed and get your half hour in without even leaving your house. No dogs chasing you. No getting wet or cold. You can even watch TV or read the paper while you walk, and not worry about banging into anyone.
Stationary cycles offer the same advantages and some other ones as well. They're much cheaper for starters–a few hundred instead of a few thousand dollars. No bouncing up and down, so if you have large breasts or a beer belly, an Exercycle may be the way to go. They're easier on your knees and ankles, too. Ask your doctor and see what he says.
Mini–trampolines were the rage in California in the early 80’s—and jogging in place on them was called "rebounding." This was also easier on the feet and ankles, knees and hips—which is especially important if you are out of shape. But it's hard to get a good workout on one of these things–you usually don't get your heart rate high enough, unless your Training Heart Rate is very low. Bouncing up and down is just too easy.
Author: Cleaves M. Bennett MD FACP
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