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Exercises for Aerobic Capacity

by 
author image George W. Citroner
George Citroner is a medical and health journalist. His work has appeared in over 50 publications and covers a broad range of medical, health, and fitness topics.
Exercises for Aerobic Capacity
Exercises for Aerobic Capacity Photo Credit: photo_chaz/iStock/GettyImages

Increased aerobic capacity means having an easier time getting around. Whether it a flight of stairs or running after the kids, better aerobic capacity will make it a breeze. What can you do (and how much do you need to do it) for better aerobic capacity?

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Most people should do 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic training, five days per week to maintain optimal cardiovascular fitness, according to guidelines from the American Heart Association. The AHA adds that only 20 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise (the perceived exertion level feels high) three days per week will also maintain good health and help reduce the risk of experiencing chronic disease. Moderate-intensity aerobics, which means being able to speak (but not sing) should be performed at least 150 minutes per week to see health benefits.

To get the most benefit from aerobic workouts, it’s best to reach and stay at 60 to 80 percent of the maximum heart rate during exercise. Use the heart rate zone calculator from the American Council on Exercise to easily figure it out. Take a look at these four exercises for increased aerobic capacity and try them out to keep some variety in the exercise program and avoid boredom.

1. Aerobic Walking

According to a study in the September 2010 Current Opinion in Cardiology, research suggests that walking can play a key role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Walking is an activity that’s easily included in daily activities. Try parking farther away or get off mass transit one stop early and walk the rest of the way. Also, try walking to destinations within a mile of home and walking during breaks at work.

To get your heart rate between 60 and 80 percent of its maximum, it's important to walk faster than normal. The key to walking aerobically isn’t in the legs but in the arms. Because the arms and legs act as pendulums while walking, increase the walking pace by just increasing the frequency of your arm swings. Try it! If the arms are swinging more rapidly than step frequency, the legs will start moving faster to catch up.

Read more: Is walking good exercise?

Running or jogging will build aerobic capacity.
Running or jogging will build aerobic capacity. Photo Credit: Pixabay

2. Jogging and Running

Jogging and running are convenient ways to train for greater aerobic capacity. Other than running shoes and a place to go, there isn't much else someone needs to start.

There are different approaches to running for aerobic fitness: Jogging at a comfortable pace (slower than 6 miles per hour), running for long distances and sprinting at high-intensity.

Research published in the February 2016 issue of the World Journal of Cardiology concludes that all three approaches to running as exercise are valid means of improving aerobic capacity, but running at high-intensity (sprinting) has been found better at improving the blood lipid profile in exercisers.

Regardless whether running is done outdoors, indoors using a treadmill or running in place anywhere convenient, it’s a fantastic way to build aerobic capacity and reduce the risk of heart disease.

3. Bike Riding

Bike riding has some advantages over walking and running. It’s relatively low-impact, is easy to incorporate into a daily commute — and it’s really fun!

A 2009 study published in Sports Medicine concludes that both running and bicycling provide very similar improvements to both V02 max and muscular endurance. So, mixing up an aerobic training program with both activities is one way to fend off boredom while reaping the benefits of heart health and increased aerobic capacity.

Bike riding is also a healthy alternative to mass transportation or driving for a daily commute. Many bus lines make provisions for passengers with bikes by providing storage racks in front of or behind the vehicle. This makes it easy to both ride and bike the distance to work if it’s too far for your current fitness level.

If the weather is bad, consider using a stationary bike in front of your favorite show to keep building aerobic capacity no matter what’s happening outside.

Read more: Cardio 101: How to start cycling.

Swimming is an all body workout that builds aerobic capacity.
Swimming is an all body workout that builds aerobic capacity. Photo Credit: Pixabay

4. Swimming

A study in the December 2005 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine determined that swim training produces unique benefits to aerobic capacity not found with other exercises. Don't just swim laps, mix it up to by changing the stroke often (crawl, breast, back, etc.). Try varying swim speeds during a pool session from sprints to steady laps to improve speed, aerobic capacity and better overall fitness.

Although regular pool or open water access may be an issue, it’s still an excellent way to build aerobic capacity. Make sure that you swim in the presence of a lifeguard and are competent enough in the water to avoid getting into trouble.

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