Helping You To Discover The Benefits Of Aerobic Exercise

To get the most of out a workout you need to know how to exercise. Without that knowledge, you may not get the most out of your workout, be it simple or complex.

There are three fundamental elements in exercise. By just changing one of these elements, you can improve, or more often, impair the benefits of your workout.

Whilst these elements are incorporated into a muscular exercise program, they are applied differently. Click here to learn How to Exercise: My Muscles.

But if you want to learn How to Exercise: Aerobically, you’re in the right place.

The three elements to exercise are:

  • Intensity
  • Frequency
  • Duration

Below is a breakdown of each element and how to apply them. Read pass Duration to learn what happens if you do less than what is recommended. Learn what happens if you break the three rules!

How to exercise – Intensity

Intensity is a measure of how much effort you put into an exercise, over a period of time. It’s how hard you push yourself during your exercise program.

An intense workout is achieved when you are able to speak during a workout. If you can sing, the workout is too easy. If you can barely speak, or about to blow the 3 little pigs, houses down (by huffing and puffing)then it is too hard.

Sometimes intensity is measured by how hard your heart works (or BPM – Beats Per Minute) but typically, it’s measured by how many calories you burn in a workout.

Why isn’t intensity typically measured in BPM (Beats Per Minute)?

Whilst it is important to get your heart rate up every once in a while, it is dangerous to tell a group of different types of people to get their BPM to, say 140, as a measure for intensity. And it’s not hard to see why…

Anyone with a heart condition, overweight or above 60 years old may find this too hard a challenge; pushing their body to the limit. They may also risk having a heart attack.

Then again, an athlete may not see this as a challenge, so it won’t have much effect on his workout. But this measurement can be useful if it is specific to you.

A medical professional may set a threshold for your workout by using your BPM. It can help set goals, plot any data and can be a very accurate measure of intensity.

Ever heard of the term Calories burnt per session?

We all know about calories, right? It’s not just about losing weight. Calories (or Kcal) is just another measure of energy. For an effective workout, exercise physiologists believe that you should burn between 200 and 400 calories.

At this level you should be able to have an intense exercise program, helping you to build and maintain fitness, strength and flexibility.

Bear in mind though, the heavier you are, the more calories you burn per minute. It also varies from exercise to exercise so as always, consult your doctor/dietician.

Can I lose weight if I eat less and do aerobic exercises?

Theoretically, yes you can but you should always make sure that you are aiming for a “normal” BMI (Body Mass Index) and are still eating enough calories to keep your body functioning.

A beneficial way to eat whilst on a weight loss diet is with fat burning foods. You can learn more about the benefits of fat burning foods here.

How to exercise – Frequency

Frequency is an easy one to grasp. This is how often you exercise per week. Ideally you should exercise 3 times a week whilst you are unfit. You can exercise for more, but if you do, exercise your muscles for 3 other days of that week.

To build both muscular strength and aerobic fitness exercise 6 times a week. Using the A/B rule is often preferred (Day 1 – train aerobically, Day 2 – train your muscles etc) especially if you take a rest day in the middle of that week.

To learn more about the muscle workout program check the How to Exercise: My Muscles page.

How to exercise – Duration

Duration describes how you long you perform a workout. A workout starts when you warm up and ends when you cool down. Whilst unfit, each workout should last for 30 mins.

Don’t Forget, you need to give 3-5 minutes for a warm up and a cool down (that’s 6-10 mins in total).

What happens if I break the three rules of aerobic exercise?

Intensity – Exercising less than 200 Kcal is not really exercising! We all use energy when we walk but that barely conditions our legs. It is almost a waste of time because your body won’t retain many benefits.

Frequency – An exercise program that is only performed twice a week is only useful for aerobically fit individuals. This is because they don’t need improve their aerobic fitness any further.

Exercise performed twice a week will only maintain fitness levels. It will do very little if your fitness level is poor.

Any less than twice a week will result in a decline in aerobic fitness. EVEN FOR ATHLETES! In one study VO2 MAX dropped from 49 to about 45 in ten weeks, in those exercising just once a week. VO2 MAX dropped even further from 49 to about 43 in ten weeks, in those who didn’t exercise.

To learn more about aerobic capacity and VO2 MAX click here.

Duration (Longer) – If you don’t limit the duration of an exercise session one of two things will happen:


  • You’ll spread your intensity over a longer period of time, reducing the effectiveness of the workout.
  • You’ll maintain the same rate of intensity in that period, burning more energy and more calories.

The second one may not seem like such a bad thing but it can be. If you are unfit, your recovery time may take longer. You may become de-motivated and break your exercise routine because of it.

For aerobically fit individuals, this may not be the case. In that scenario, a longer workout with the same intensity may further improve their aerobic capacity.

Duration (Shorter) – Unfortunately, this is more likely to happen! Without a good fitness level, your body won’t benefit very much from an exercise workout shorter than 30 mins.

In other words, if you’re unconditioned, little or no training will be the effect of a shortened exercise workout.

Then again, aerobically fit individuals can exercise for as little as 20 minutes to maintain their fitness level. This is because their bodies are conditioned, able to retain more exercising benefits than anyone unfit.

What about stretching? Do I really need to bother?


Without it, you risk damaging your joints, ligaments, heart and will reduce the benefits of a workout.

To learn more about muscle stretches head to the How to Exercise: My Muscles page.

Or head back to the Exercise: Workout Program page.