Next to the cabbage soup diet and spot-reduction, there’s only one fitness myth that’s easier to bust: that you need a gym membership to get in a good aerobic workout. “You definitely do not need a gym membership to get your cardio in,” says Nathalia Melo, NFPT-CPT, a Bikini Olympia champion and personal trainer.
But, she warns: Be careful about letting the comfort of home creep into your aerobic workout.
“When training from home, it’s easy to not take it so seriously,” she says. “There’s laundry to be done, or the kids want a snack, or the floor needs to be mopped. Make sure that you schedule that time for you to train, rain or shine.”
What Makes an Exercise Aerobic?
Aerobic exercise falls somewhere between a leisurely walk in the park and an intense, red-faced hill sprint. “Any sustained low- to moderate-intensity activity lasting longer than two minutes is aerobic exercise,” Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Openfit’s director of fitness and nutrition content, explains. “Because that’s when your body turns mostly to oxygen and either glucose or fat for energy.” Jogging, swimming, and cycling at a steady pace are all considered aerobic exercise.
Shorter, more intense bursts of exercise — HIIT, sprinting, a gymnast’s tumbling pass — are examples of anaerobic exercise, as they’re fueled more by energy sources stored within the muscle, not oxygen.
7 Aerobic Exercises You Can Do at Home
Help excuse-proof your routine by doing aerobic exercise at home. You’ll need minimal equipment and a small patch of floor space to get in a killer workout.
1. High knees
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
- Simultaneously lift your right knee as high as you can, but at least to hip level, as you bend your left elbow and raise your left arm in a running motion.
- Quickly switch arms and legs so that your left knee is lifted, your right arm is raised, and your right foot is on the floor.
- Continue to alternate legs in a jogging motion until all reps are complete.
2. Squat touchdown
- Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides.
- Jump your feet to a little more than hip-width apart and land in a squat position.
- As you land, touch your right fingertips to the floor, keeping your back flat, shoulders back, and core engaged.
- Jump your feet back together, and return to a standing position with your arms at your sides.
- Repeat with the opposite hand and continue alternating sides until all reps are complete.
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Sit your hips down and back, bend your knees, and lower your butt into a squat position. Place your palms on the ground in front of your feet.
- Jump your feet back so that you’re in a high plank position. Keep your back flat, core engaged, and neck neutral as you lower your body to within a few inches off the ground.
- Push your body back up to a plank position.
- Jump your feet forward to meet your hands, lift your chest as you rise to standing, then jump straight up in the air, clapping your hands overhead.
- Land softly and immediately go into the next rep. Repeat until all reps are complete.
4. Jumping jack
- Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides.
- Simultaneously jump both feet out to your sides, landing with a soft bend in the knees as you sweep your arms to the sides and clap your hands overhead.
- Bring both arms back down to your sides as you jump your feet back together.
- Repeat for the specified number of reps.
- Start in a plank position with your palms and the balls of your feet on the floor. Keep your neck neutral, your body straight, and your core engaged.
- Draw your right knee toward your chest, keeping your back flat and your butt down.
- Quickly switch legs, bringing your left knee to your chest and placing the ball of your right foot on the ground.
- Continue alternating legs for the specified number of reps.
6. Jumping rope
- Stand with your feet together and your knees slightly bent, holding a jump rope handle in each hand. Position the rope behind your feet.
- Lift your chest up, draw your elbows close to your rib cage, and bring your hands out to your sides. Your hands should be about hip height, with your palms facing forward.
- Keeping your core engaged, quickly flick your wrists forward, bringing the rope up and over your head. As the rope moves toward your toes, jump off the balls of your feet, allowing the rope to pass underneath them.
- Land softly, maintaining a slight bend in your knees, and continue for the specified number of reps.
Want to improve your jump rope skills? Here are some additional tips.
7. Medicine ball slams
- Stand holding a medicine ball in front of your chest with your feet about hip-width apart.
- Keeping your core engaged, press the medicine ball directly overhead.
- Hinge at your hips, bend your knees, and push your butt back as you bring the medicine ball down toward the floor. Release the ball at about knee-level, slamming it to the ground.
- Reach for the ball, return to the starting position, and immediately repeat the entire movement until all reps are complete.
How Much Aerobic Exercise Do You Need?
According to the World Health Organization, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. However, anyone looking to improve their health, drop a few pounds, or simply reap more benefits of aerobic exercise should double that amount to 300 minutes of aerobic exercise throughout the week.
Benefits of Aerobic Exercise
- Weight loss and maintenance
Aerobic exercise, along with sensible eating habits, can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Improved heart function
Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart, enabling it to pump blood more efficiently, promoting healthy blood pressure. Additionally, aerobic exercise helps keep the arteries clear by increasing good cholesterol (HDL) and lowering bad cholesterol (LDL).
- Better sleep
Do you find yourself up counting sheep at night? Aerobic exercise has been shown to help improve sleep quality and reduce sleep latency.
- Stress reduction
Aerobic exercise releases endorphins, those feel-good brain chemicals that help relieve stress and boost your mood.
- Increased immunity
If you’re feeling run down and catching every bug that’s going around, try boosting your immune system with aerobic exercise.
- Reduced health risks
Regularly partaking in aerobic exercise has been shown to positively affect cardiovascular health and help maximize longevity.