Aerobic Exercise: Benefits, Examples and How to Get Started

Aerobic exercise or “cardio” is any type of exercise that provides cardiovascular conditioning. Learn the benefits, examples, and how to get started.

Laura Campedelli, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist currently working in New York at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, an affiliate of New York Presbyterian.

Aerobic exercise involves physical activity that increases your breathing and heart rate to fuel your body with oxygen-rich blood. Aerobic exercise helps strengthen your heart muscle, improves your lung function, and increases circulation and healthy blood flow throughout your body.

This article will describe the benefits of aerobic exercise, examples, and how to get started.

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Aerobic means “with oxygen,” so aerobic exercise is any physical activity that involves increased amounts of oxygen throughout your body. As you exercise, your muscles require increased oxygen to contract for a prolonged period. 

With aerobic exercise, cells undergo cellular respiration, in which oxygen and other molecules are converted into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy source for cells.

Your heart rate will increase to pump more oxygen-carrying blood throughout the body to supply more oxygen to your muscles. Your breathing rate will also increase to bring more oxygen into the body and the bloodstream. Because aerobic exercise requires increased functioning of your heart and lungs or cardiovascular system, aerobic exercise is often called cardiovascular exercise, or “cardio.”