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In this article we provide some general information regarding aerobic exercise - the different types and safe implementation. We answer some basic questions you might have if, or when, considering starting a new exercise program.


Aerobic exercise is defined as: "physical activity that uses free oxygen as the main energy source. It predominantly relies on the cardiovascular system to fuel the exercise - working the heart, lungs, blood vessels and muscles to perform any bout of physical activity."

Aerobic exercise performance is generally thought of as how “fit” a person is.



1. Incidental Activity - This is any physical activity that is part of another activity. Intensity can vary depending on the task. This includes activities such as:​

  • Taking the stairs instead of the lifts

  • Gardening or mowing the lawn

  • Walking whilst going shopping

  • Cleaning the house

2. Long Slow Distance - This involves performing a steady paced bout of exercise for a prolonged period of time. This means working at a steady pace and intensity for an extended period of time, optimally approximately 30 minutes. Intensity can be around 50-70% of a person’s maximal heart rate. Examples include:

  • Walking

  • Riding a push bike

  • Kayaking

  • Swimming​

3. Interval Training - Performing multiple bouts of exercise at varying intensities; generally low and high intensity. This generally means working at 50-60% of a person’s maximal heart rate then increasing intensity to 70-80% of one’s maximal heart rate and repeating multiple times.

  • Walk/run - walking for 2 minutes then jogging for 2 minutes

  • Circuit training


As you can tell from the above explanations of varying types of aerobic exercise, measuring intensity is a vital part of cardiovascular training. We need to do this in order to make sure that we keep it safe, especially for those of us suffering from chronic health conditions or who haven’t exercised before or recently.

Measuring intensity is usually done in one of the following ways:

  • Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE).

  • Percentage of maximal heart rate.

1. Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) This essentially asks: “How hard are you working, on a scale of 1-10?” Research has shown that this is a cost effective and very easy way to measure the intensity of exercise for a given individual.

If we are performing a long slow distance style of aerobic exercise, such as walking for 30 minutes in the morning, we can gauge the intensity by asking “How hard am I working?”

A safe range for majority of the population would be 4-6/10 (moderate intensity).

2. Percentage of Maximum Heart Rate This method takes a bit more time and equipment to measure, however with fitbits, heart monitors and fitness tracking apps this is becoming increasingly easy to do.

Your theoretical maximum heart rate can be calculated by performing the following sum:

220 – Your Age = Maximum Heart Rate

After calculating your maximum heart rate, we can then figure out what heart rate we would like to work at for a certain intensity, eg low or moderate.

RECOMMENDATIONS Vast peer reviewed studies have been performed on the topic of how aerobic exercise can aid with overall health, and the following results were found: Performing 150 minutes of moderate intensity per week, has been shown to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes) by up to 80%. My favourite way to do this is 30 minutes of outdoor walking at a moderate intensity (4-6/10) 5 days per week. Give it a try and see how you feel! If you have any further questions or concerns about starting a new aerobic exercise program don’t hesitate to consult with your local Exercise Physiologist.

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