Aerobic Details From Multiple Sources

What is aerobic exercise?

The term aerobic means "with oxygen." During an aerobic workout, the cardiovascular system, which includes the heart, lungs and blood vessels, responds to physical activity by increasing the oxygen that is available to the body's working muscles.

Aerobic activity involves an exercise routine that uses large muscle groups, is maintained for a long periods and is rhythmic in nature. Regular aerobic exercise improves your fitness as your heart becomes stronger and begins to work better. The result is that the heart can pump more blood (thus increasing oxygen delivery to the tissues) with each heartbeat. As your aerobic fitness increases, you can work out longer with greater intensity and recover quicker at the end of the session.

What are some examples of aerobic exercise?

Many activities can give you an aerobic workout. Some examples include biking, running, swimming, cross-country skiing, playing basketball, jumping rope, roller skating, walking briskly and dancing. In addition to these activities, you can get an aerobic workout through stationary exercise machines such as cycles, treadmills, stair-steppers and rowing machines. These can be found at a local gym or health club. Most of these machines can also be used at home.

Who can participate in aerobic exercise?

Virtually everyone can do some type of aerobic exercise. Because each type of aerobic exercise can be modified to varying intensity levels, people with different fitness goals, levels of physical conditioning and injury or illness history can participate.

If you are older than 40 or have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure or other cardiovascular condition, talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Aerobic exercise is proven to help people with conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, anxiety and premenstrual syndrome.

What are the added benefits of aerobic exercise?

Along with strengthening your heart, studies show repeatedly that there are many benefits to aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise can:

  • Increase resistance to fatigue and give you more energy. Aerobic exercise can add life to your years along with years to your life.

  • Improve mood and reduce depression and anxiety. Positive mood changes have been noted after as little as two to three weeks of starting aerobic exercise.

  • Improve the quality of your sleep. Studies show people who exercise regularly fall asleep quicker and sleep better. Finish your aerobic exercise routine one to two hours before bedtime.

  • Increase good (HDL) cholesterol. This type of cholesterol is known to reduce the risk of heart disease.

  • Help control and reduce body fat. Aerobic exercise with a healthy diet can lower body fat.

  • Reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Aerobic exercise has been associated with a reduction in the incidence of colon cancer in men and women, and the incidence of breast and reproductive organ cancers in women.

What to consider when developing an aerobic workout schedule

Here are the three important factors that affect an aerobic workout:

  • Frequency. This refers to how often you do an aerobic activity.

  • Duration. This refers to how much time is spent at each aerobic session.

  • Intensity. This refers to the percentage of your maximum heart rate achieved during the workout.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends aerobic activity be done three to five times a week for 20 to 60 minutes at an intensity of 60 percent to 90 percent of maximum heart rate. (To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220, then multiply this number by 0.60 for the low end of your target heart range and by 0.90 for the higher range.)

Heart rates and target zones for aerobic exercise

For general guidelines used in determining your maximum heart rate and target heart rate ranges, refer to the chart below.


Maximum heart rate (beats/minute)

Target range (beats/minute)































70 and older



If you are just starting a workout program, your beginning workout time may need to be as little as 15 minutes, three days a week. Therefore, it may take several weeks or months to build up. Stick with it. Gradually increase your frequency, duration and intensity. This is especially true if you are overweight, out of condition, elderly, or are recovering from an illness or injury.

A warm-up and a cool-down period, both of which should incorporate stretching exercises, are essential parts of aerobic conditioning. Warming up helps your body prepare for exercise by slowly raising your heart rate and muscle temperature. This also decreases the likelihood of injury.

A cool-down allows the heart rate to slowly return to normal and to get the blood circulating freely back to the heart. Never abruptly stop an aerobic activity, no matter how tired you become, because this could cause dizziness or sudden fainting. If you can't keep up the pace of an aerobic workout, slow down and walk around for a few minutes before completely stopping activity.

Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your workout.

How many calories does aerobic exercise burn?

The number of calories that you burn varies with the activity, duration and intensity of the workout. The table below is from the American Council on Exercise. Calories are given for one minute of activity. To determine how many calories you would burn in half an hour of aerobic activity, multiply the number shown by 30.

Activity and calories/minute

120 pounds

140 pounds

160 pounds

180 pounds

Aerobics class










Cycling (10 mph)





Golf (carry clubs)





Golf (power cart)

























Skiing (cross-country)





Skiing (downhill and water)




















Weight Training





Aerobic Conditioning

Aerobic conditioning is important to developing the endurance to withstand the demands of historical martial art. Technically, aerobic conditioning involves approximately 20 minutes of continuous exercise which elevates the heart rate to around 80% of the maximal rate. The maximal rate is 220 minus your age. For a person 50 years of age, an aerobic rate would be elevating the pulse rate for twenty minutes to approximately 136.

There are various forms of aerobic conditioning, and the most obvious and common form is running. This does not mean that one needs to be able to run marathons. 

Running three miles at lease three times weekly will generate obvious results.

220-12 = maximal heart rate of 208
208 * .8 = 166.4
aerobic range - 166 - 208

220-56 = 164 maximal heart rate
164 * .8 = 131
aerobic range - 131 - 208

220-42= 178 maximal heart rate
178 * .8= 142
aerobic range - 142 - 208


The first step in any conditioning program is to build an aerobic base. This requires two to four sessions perBoot Camp Recruits Running week of continuous aerobic activity (e.g. jogging, brisk walking) for 15 to

 30 minutes at a moderate intensity.

The target heart rate for recruits during exercise is approximately 130-150 beats per minute, or a perceived exertion of "moderately hard".

Faster is not better. As long as you get your heart rate into the target range, running a 12-minute mile or six-minute mile produces approximately the same aerobic and caloric effect. A minimum of four to six weeks is generally recommended for a healthy young adult to build an aerobic base.

Aerobic Conditioning

Warm-Up (10 to 15 minutes) (see examples)

  • jumping jacks
  • arm circles
  • brisk walk
  • knee lifts

Aerobic Conditioning Routine (20 to 40 minutes)

  • 1 - 1.5 Mile Run

Cool-Down/Flexibility Training (10 to 15 minutes)

The cool-down should use the same muscle groups as the preceding exercise session in a similar activity with gradually decreasing intensity (e.g. brisk walking to cool down from running).

Once the cardiovascular system has returned to a near resting state (5 to 10 minutes), the cool-down should conclude with a total body stretching routine. All stretches should be performed in a static manner (no bouncing) and held for 10 to 20 seconds.

Stretches (see examples)

  • neck stretch
  • rounded shoulder reach (upper back, shoulders)
  • chest, shoulder and biceps stretch
  • back scratch stretch (biceps)
  • overhead side bends (trunk)
  • spinal twist (lower back, iliotibial band)
  • seated butterfly stretch (groin muscles)
  • standing hip flexor (hip flexor, calf muscles)
  • supine hamstring stretch (hamstrings)
  • prone quadriceps stretch (quadriceps, shin muscles)
  • straight/bent-knee standing calf stretch (calf muscles)
Aerobic vs. anaerobic cardio conditioning

Cardiovascular conditioning is either aerobic or anaerobic. Aerobic is characterized by a duration of nonstop, moderate-intensity activity. As you breathe, your heart pumps oxygen via your blood vessels to your working muscles to produce energy for movement. This energy-production system is dependent upon a strong beat of your heart.

Anaerobic is characterized by short, powerful bursts of effort (such as skiing or snowboarding). The muscles are only able to perform for seconds at a time before needing a brief recovery period to replenish. The heart isn't able to pump oxygenated blood into the muscles quickly enough. Muscle burn happens as a result of little or no oxygen available in the working muscles to produce energy.

The more aerobically fit you are, the less "anaerobic" winter sports become. Therefore, you'll experience less burning and soreness the next day.

Mental focus and concentration improve when your heart is fit. As your ability to concentrate on form and technique goes up, risk of injury due to lack of concentration goes down.

Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are excellent examples of aerobic conditioning activities. You can perform these sports for long periods of time at a steady, moderate pace without stopping. If you use these sports for exercise, do them at least 20 minutes without stopping, four times each week. (Work up to this level if you're just starting.)
Aerobic conditioning tips
By Lauren Gregg with Tim Nash

Aerobic training is the endurance component. It's your conditioning base. It involves longer, more steady-state activities. For example, a twenty-minute run will help you "cruise" up and down the field.

It's important to lay down a good foundation, so you must have a good endurance base first. Remember, the endurance aspect is the aerobic training, and it involves more distance running. But you can't start out running four miles if you haven't done anything in a few months. It's a process. Performing too much work before you are ready will result in an injury. do not expect to get fit overnight.

Fartlek training, developed in the 1930's, comes from the Swedish for 'Speed Play', has some higher intensity segments mixed into the run. It's both aerobic and anaerobic. It contains duration, intensity, and recovery. You determine how much work and how much rest you get. For example, start your regular run. When you feel comfortable, increase your running pace for some distance, maybe to the second telephone pole or mailbox. Whe you reach it, slow down to the speed at which you think you were running before you picked up the pace. When you have recovered from the first harder run, do it again.

As your fitness improves, those slower-paced portions of the run will actually be getting faster and faster.

Foundation Aerobic Conditioning Program There is a quick checklist you should go over before you get started: always adequately warup by stretching and easing into any activity; make sure you have good shoes; make sure you are hydrated by drinking water before you go. Once you break a sweat from your warup, you are ready to begin the more intense portion of the warmup.

Sample Aerobic Program
1. To get started, jog for 20 to 30 minutes, ideally on a soft surface. For ages 14-16, jog for 20 minutes; 30 minutes for high school and college ages. Repeat a few days a week.

2. If you are too sore the day after you run, wait until the next day.

3. Continue this jogging at a comfortable pace for a number of weeks. A comfortable pace is one where you can carry on a conversation without getting breathless.

4. Your goal should be to jog 4-5 days a week.

5. After a few weeks, you can add Fartlek training. For example, on a 20- minute run, at every five-minute mark, increase your pace for 30-45 seconds.

6. As you develop a base, start timing yourself or measuring distance.

7. To ensure you are training hard, try beating your time for 2-3 miles each time you run. Or if you are running for 20 minutes, see if you can go a little bit farther each time.

Gregg is a former assistant coach with the U.S. Women's National Team.

Harvard Step Test

Testing and measurement are the means of collecting information upon which subsequent performance evaluations and decisions are made but in the analysis we need to bear in mind the factors that may influence the results.


The objective of this test is to monitor the development of the athlete's cardiovascular system.

Required Resources

To undertake this test you will require :

  • Gym bench (45cm high)
  • Stop watch
  • Assistant

How to conduct the test

The Harvard Step Test is conducted as follows:

  • Step up on to a standard gym bench once every two seconds for five minutes (150 steps)
  • Have someone to help you keep to the required pace
  • One minute after finishing the test take your pulse rate (bpm)- Pulse 1
  • Two minutes after finishing the test take your pulse rate (bpm) - Pulse 2
  • Three minutes after finishing the test take your pulse rate (bpm) - Pulse 3
  • Use the calculator below to determine your level of fitness
Step Test


Analysis of the result is by comparing it with the results of previous tests. It is expected that, with appropriate training between each test, the analysis would indicate an improvement.

Using the three pulse rate your level of fitness can be determined as follows:

  • Result = 30000 ÷ (pulse1 + pulse2 + pulse3)

Fitness calculator

For an estimate of your level of fitness enter your pulse rates (Pulse 1, Pulse 2 and Pulse 3) and then select the 'Calculate' button.

Pulse 1 = bpm Pulse 2 = bpm Pulse 3 = bpm

How fit are you? points

Normative data for the Harvard Step Test

The following table is for 16 year old athletes.

Gender Excellent Above Average Average Below Average Poor
Male >90 80-90 65-79 55-64 <55
Female >86 76-86 61-75 50-60 <50

Table Reference: McArdle W.D. et al; Essential of Exercise Physiology; 2000

Target Group

This test is suitable for active and sedentary athletes but not for individuals where the test would be contraindicated.


Reliability would depend upon how strict the test is conducted and the individual's level of motivation to perform the test.


There are published tables to relate results to a potential level of fitness and the correlation is high.

Free Calculator

  • The Harvard Step Test - a free Microsoft Excel spreadsheet which you can download and use on your computer.

the Aerobic Energy System

Harvard Step Test

  • description / procedure: The athlete steps up and down on the platform at a rate of 30 steps per minute for 5 minutes or until exhaustion. Exhaustion is defined as when the athlete cannot maintain the stepping rate for 15 seconds. The athlete immediately sits down on completion of the test, and the total number of heart beats are counted between 1 to 1.5 minutes after finishing, between 2 to 2.5 minutes, and between 3 to 3.5 minutes.
  • scoring: the score is determined by the following equation. score = (100 x test duration in seconds) divided by 2 x (total heart beats in the recovery periods). For example, if the total test time was 300 seconds (if completed the whole 5 minutes), and the number of heart beats between 1-1.5 minutes was 90, between 2-2.5 it was 80 and between 3-3.5 it was 70, then the score would be: (100 x 300) / (2 x 240) = 62.5
> 90
80 - 89
high average
65 - 79
low average
55 - 64
< 55
  • equipment required: step or platform 20 inches (50.8 cm) high, stopwatch, metronome or cadence tape.
  • validity: correlation to VO2max approximately 0.6 to 0.8
  • advantages: minimal equipment and costs involved, little time required, and can be self-administered.
  • disadvantages: Biomechanical characteristics vary between individuals (e.g. taller people are at an advantage)
  • more information: measuring heart rate
2. Harvard Step Test Information

This test is designed for healthy young males and females. It is a strenuous test, consisting of the following characteristics:

Bench height: 50 cm (Males), 45 cm (Females)
Stepping rate: 30 steps. min-1
Duration : Up to 5 minutes
Pulse monitoring: Seated;
Long form: 3*30 sec. pulse rates taken at 1 - 1 1/2 min., 2 - 2 1/2 min., and 3 - 3 1/2 min.
Short form: one 30 second pulse measurement at 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
Estimated energy demand: males 46.4 ml/kg/min; females 41.4 ml/kg/min.

This test was developed at the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory during the second World War. The physiological basis of the test involves two concepts:

1. Since the test involves measuring recovery heart rate then the fitter subjects will recover at a faster rate from a standardised workrate.

2. Trained people will have a lower heart rate at a standardised workrate.

The Harvard Step Test is appropriate for comparing fitness levels in the same person, that is, before and after a training program.

It is probably not the best test for comparison among different subjects since, all other things being equal:
a) The greater the reflex angle at the knee joint when one foot is on the bench then the lower the score (ie. disadvantages shorter people).
b) The greater the absolute leg length the greater the score.

The norms for young adults have been developed on over 8000 subjects (Campbell and Tucker, (1967).

[Reference: Brouha (1943)]

Harvard Step Test


1. Prior to testing advise the subject about pre-test preparation, that is:
a) Food - eat at least 3 hours before the test.
b) Smoking - do not smoke within 3 hours of the test.
c) Exercise - no vigorous exercise within 24 hours of the test.
d) Clothing - light clothing appropriate for exercise is desirable

2. The subject should complete pre-exercise screening questionnaire and consent forms.

3. Ensure the equipment is ready:
a) Step benches, males 50 cm high, females 45cm high
b) Metronome. Check that the metronome is set at 120bpm and ensure that it is adequately wound.
c) Stopwatch.

4. Demonstrate the correct stepping procedure:

a) Stand close to bench.

b) Place the whole foot onto the bench when stepping.

c) Knees are straightened and body is erect when standing on the bench.

5. Begin the test. The subject keeps in time with the metronome:

a) Beat 1- Step up with one foot
b) Beat 2- Step up with the other foot so that the subject is erect on the bench
c) Beat 3- Step down with one foot
d) Beat 4- Step down with the other foot

6. The lead leg may be changed during the test but the rhythm must not be broken (to reduce calf soreness and thigh muscle fatigue).

7. The duration of the test is 5 minutes for males and 4 minutes for females.

8. Subjects practice the step up procedure including lead leg change for 15 seconds, with the teeter calling "UP", "2", "3", "4", "UP", and so on in time with the metronome set at 120 bpm.

9. Subjects take pulse for 30 seconds with the tester checking where necessary. The tester and assistants may have to take the post-exercise pulse of some subjects who cannot take an accurate pulse.
In the short version- take the post-exercise heart rate between 1- 1 1/2 minutes.
In the long version- take the post-exercise heart rate between 1- 1 1/2 minutes , 2- 2 1/2 minutes and 3- 3 1/2 minutes.

10. Subjects stand in front of the bench with sufficient space between subjects.

11. When subjects are ready:
a) start the metronome.
b) tell subjects to start after the initial count of "UP", "2", "3", "4".

12. Once the exercise time has finished subjects should sit down while heart rate is taken.

[Reference: Brouha (1943)]