By Dr. Dawn M. Sweet
When you think of aerobic exercise, what comes to mind? Jogging for miles through your neighborhood? Running up and down flights of stairs at your local office park? While these are great ways to get our heart rates up and burn calories, they may not be for everyone.
Why is Aerobic Activity Important?
Incorporating aerobic exercise is important for improved physical and mental health, and it is also instrumental in weight loss. When coupled with a healthy diet, aerobic exercise can help us lose weight and keep it off. As we exercise, we increase our stamina, improve lung function, improve heart health, and reduce our risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Aerobic exercise also gives our immune systems a boost and our moods! Regular aerobic exercise helps us manage stress, and it could also increase the release of endorphins — the “feel good” neurotransmitters released by our brain. Aerobic exercise can also improve our digestive health and maintain cognitive health.
Fun Activities to help you Stay Moving and Motivated
Like many things in life, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to adding cardio workouts to your exercise routine. If you don’t really enjoy running, for example, what activities could you add to keep you moving and motivated? When considering changes to cardio workouts, think about things you enjoy.
Here are some creative ways to keep moving:
BRISK WALKING. If you have a dog, take your dog for an extra walk each day. If you need to do an errand like mail something at the post-office, pick up milk, or get a haircut, consider walking. If you can’t easily walk to do errands, perhaps you drive part way and walk the rest of the way.
JUMP ROPE. You may not have jumped rope since gym elementary school, but you can give it a try if you don’t have any major joint or mobility issues. All you need is a jump rope and some space! You can jump to the beat of your favorite song to help keep you moving.
SWIMMING / WATER AEROBICS. If you live in a community that has an indoor pool — or an outdoor pool if you live in a warm climate — you could swim laps a few times a week or join a water aerobics class. Both are low impact ways to boost your heart rate and burn calories.
GO FOR HIKE. Call a friend and go for hike if you live somewhere with access to groomed trails.
DANCE. Who says vacuuming must be tedious?! As you vacuum your house, turn on some music and dance your way to cleaner floors.
SPORTS. If you enjoy team sports, look for an adult recreation league in your community or nearby communities. Perhaps there is a basketball league, pickle ball league, or ultimate frisbee league you could join.
RUN. If you do enjoy running, look for a local running club that has weekly meet ups to help keep you motivated to get in your miles.
Getting Started with Aerobic Activity
Be sure to talk with your health care provider before beginning any aerobic exercise program. And when you are ready to begin, start slowly and increase intensity and the amount of time you spend being active. It’s important to set realistic goals. For example, if you haven’t been active in a while, perhaps set an initial goal of walking for 15 minutes each day. Adjust your goals as your stamina increases. Some strategies to consider are adding another 100 or 200 hundred more steps in 15 minutes, or adding five more minutes to your daily walk as you build stamina.
Aerobic exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, especially when coupled with a healthy diet. Being physically active leads to improved physical and mental well-being. So let’s get moving!
About the Author: Dr. Dawn M. Sweet has over 20 years of experience in the field of communication. Dr. Sweet has given several invited talks to and workshops for academic and private sector audiences on the role of nonverbal and verbal communication in achieving positive outcomes and mitigating bias. Her research has been published in several top ranked peer-review journals, and it has been featured on NPR’s River to River / All Things Considered, Buzzfeed, and Science Daily. Her research has also been used to inform expert testimony.