All About Aerobics

The dictionary definition of aerobic exercise is exercise of moderate intensity that lasts for a long duration. Aerobic exercise is exercise "with oxygen" - exercise that causes muscles to use oxygen to generate energy.

A Typical Aerobics Workout

A typical aerobics workout involves three phases: a warm up phase that lasts about five to ten minutes and involves exercising at approximately 50% intensity; an active phase that lasts 20 minutes and involves exercising at approximately 70% to 80% intensity; and a cool down phase that lasts about five to ten minutes and involves exercising at a 50% to 60% intensity.

How It All Began

Aerobics got its start in 1968, when Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper conducted experiments to learn why seemingly healthy, strong athletes with outstanding muscular strength could not perform activities like running, swimming, and calisthenics over extended periods of time. Dr. Cooper found that sustained performance in these high-intensity activities was linked to the way the athlete consumed oxygen.

Dr. Cooper published his work in the book Aerobics, in 1968. The late 1960s were a time when modern technologies caused people to use less physical energy in their everyday lives. People were driving instead of walking and using washing machines and dryers instead of washing laundry by hand in a tub and hanging it up to dry. Among the other modern conveniences that contributed to a sedentary lifestyle were the automatic dishwasher, the television set, the electric blender, and the gasoline-powered lawnmower.

These energy-saving devices also created previously unknown leisure time in the population, giving people free time that they could devote to exercising their bodies. People who wanted to stay fit found that the aerobic exercise they performed while playing tennis, riding bicycles, or jogging, helped maintain their cardiovascular fitness while allowing them to do fun recreational activities.

New Fitness Industries

The aerobic fitness craze helped launch the fitness industry. Most of the gyms and fitness centers in business today owe their existence to aerobics. Women in particular found that they enjoyed taking group exercise classes set to music, led by an instructor. This brought women into the gyms that had previously been devoted primarily to male body building and weight lifting.

Other specialized aerobics classes soon took hold and became part of popular culture. Two of the most enduringly popular types of exercise around today are Jazzercise, which involves jazz dance routines performed to popular music, and Billy Blank's Tae Bo workout, which launched the cardio-boxing movement, combining martial arts with aerobic exercise.