Exercise recommendations are that adults should do at least 150 minutes/week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, in order to stay fit and reduce the risks of various lifestyle diseases, but if you have not been exercising for a long time (or ever) and want to begin, the key is to give yourself time to get into the full routine and not burn yourself out!

What is aerobic exercise?

Aerobic and anaerobic exercises are defined by the way body generates energy for the exercise: in aerobic exercise the energy is produced from body glycogen and/or fat stores by use of oxygen (hence aerobic) all through the process, whereas in anaerobic exercise, body’s availability of oxygen is outstripped by the exercise effort.

But, why should you care about which type of exercise you do? Because the impact on your health will be different in each case.

Aerobic exercise, also called endurance or cardiorespiratory fitness exercise, increases your body’s, especially of the heart and lungs, endurance for effort (essentially makes more oxygen available), so that you can be active for longer.

If done for enough time and with enough intensity, it helps in burning body fat and losing weight.

Examples of aerobic exercise: most of aerobic exercises involve the lower limbs/legs, examples include walking, jogging, cycling. On the other hand, Rowing and swimming are aerobic exercises which involve a large group of body muscles. Aerobics

Anaerobic or resistance training increases the muscle endurance and mass more than aerobic exercise and therefore in the long term helps raise the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), has positive impact on maintaining bone density as well

So, do your aerobic exercise routine for cardio fitness and endurance, so that you can trek or a marathon, may be or to live longer and healthier!

What should be your target aerobic exercise routine

WHO, CDC and most exercise guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes/week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes/week of vigorous exercise

The moderate intensity workout should be done at least 5 days/week, a gap of no more than two days per week is recommended, where as for vigorous exercise at least 3 days/week is needed

Exercise can be done all at one go (30 minutes or more of moderate or 20 minutes or more of vigorous exercise, or broken into 10 minute bouts, but make sure you count the minutes AT the desired intensity

How to measure intensity of exercise?

Two easy ways to do that, both should go hand in hand

Perceived intensity of exercise

You have to imagine a 10 point scale where 10 is the hardest level of exercise and 1 is the easiest and give a score on that scale, to your exercise episode; a score of 5-6 is moderate intensity and 7-8 is vigorous intensity. As you can imagine, this method leaves room for over or underestimation of effort, therefore you should combine this with % of eMHR method given below

% of eMHR (estimated maximum heart rate) method

  1. Estimate Your age appropriate Maximum Heart Rate (MHR):

Your MHR = 220- your age

  1. Calculate your target range for moderate or vigorous level of exercise:

For moderate intensity exercise: you need to achieve a heart rate range of 50-70% of your MHR

For vigorous exercise: you need to achieve a heart rate range of 70-85% of your MHR

e.g..: I am 36 years of age, so

My MHR= 200-36= 164

For moderate intensity exercise, I have to achieve a heart rate range of : 82 (50% of 164) to 115(70% of 164)

How to get to recommended levels of aerobic exercise?

If you want to make sure that you are fit to start, (which most adults without significant disease are), take the PARQ test and if is negative, start your exercise build up program. This test is especially important if you are a senior adult, have heart disease/diabetes or feel difficulty in coping with daily routine and if positive you might need a doctor’s advice

Below is the exercise ramp up schedule for aerobic exercise, guided from the ACSM principles

Exercise routine for aerobic exercise: how to build up over 3-6 months
Warm up (before exercise) People just beginning to exercise should have longer warm-ups (at least five minutes)

Go to the NHS link for a good well rounded warm-up


Cool down/flexibility exercise (after exercise) Go to NHS link for a well-rounded cool down


Program stage Week Frequency/


Total Duration (in minutes)

(You can divide this into 10 minute bouts, but not bouts of shorter duration

Intensity Comment
Initial stage 1-4 Begin at 3 times/week at least, get to 3-4/week begin at 15-20 minutes, increase to 25-30 minutes begin at 40-50% of MHR , increase to 50-60%  Get to regular frequency
Improvement stage 5-24 Get to 5 days/ week for moderate intensity get to 30-45 minutes 60-70% MHR, get to 70% MHR Increase intensity mainly
Maintenance phase 25 onwards 3-5 30-45 ~70% MHR Maintain

But, aerobic exercise, is only one part of being adequately active, check out the exercise recommendations for adults which includes resistance, balance and flexibility training. Happy working out!

CHECK OUT: Our references for exercise recommendations