Movement Foundation

Aerobic activity


Aerobic activity, sometimes known as cardiovascular (CV) exercise, is a form of physical activity that involves movement of our big muscles, with an increase in our heart rate, speeding up of our breathing, and performed for a longer period.

The word aerobic means ‘using oxygen’. This means aerobic activity is being done at a pace and intensity where oxygen is being used to help metabolise or ‘burn’ fuel to release energy to power the activity. Examples of aerobic activity include walking, cycling, swimming, running, dancing, and many other sports. It can also include many daily activities and hobbies such as housework and gardening.

Aerobic activity can be classified as moderate, vigorous, and very vigorous. The activities and intensity that fall into each of these three classifications is individual to a person. What is moderate for one person may be vigorous for another, such as a brisk walk or swim.

The Talk-Test is a simple measure to determine if an activity is moderate or vigorous intensity.

  • Moderate intensity: The person can still talk in full sentences. They will have noticed their breathing has increased and they will be getting warmer.
  • Vigorous intensity: The person will no longer be able to complete a sentence without taking a breath. They will be breathing much harder and they will be hot.
  • Very vigorous: This is short busts of intense all-out effort. This intensity of activity can only be performed for a very short period, perhaps 30 seconds to a few minutes, before a rest is needed. Types of very vigorous physical activity may include sprinting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT only takes a small amount of time and there is growing evidence that HIIT can provide significant health benefits.

Any activity that requires effort needs to be for a reason and ideally enjoyable. For some people knowing the health benefits of aerobic activity will be reason enough. Importantly, aerobic activity can be enjoyable and enhance our daily life and mood.

Build aerobic activity into the day, make it a habit, and notice the short-term benefits. Even a few minutes is beneficial.

To improve health consider

  • Exercise should not be a chore, so choose aerobic activities you enjoy. Examples include walking, swimming, cycling, running, sprinting, rowing, and many sports.
  • Aim to do some aerobic activity for at least 10-15 minutes every day.


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