Unlock Your Ultimate Aerobic Activity for Longevity: A Guide on How to Pick Up the One that Suits You the Best

In a nutshell

In this article, we focus on the importance of finding the right aerobic activity to maximize longevity benefits. You will learn the following aspects:

  1. How to assess your current fitness level to establish a baseline?
  2. What are the different types of aerobic activities based on impact level, personal preferences, and fitness goals?
  3. How to adapt aerobic exercise to your lifestyle by making it enjoyable, convenient, and compatible with your daily routine?
  4. How to overcome common barriers to exercise?
  5. How to evaluate your progress and adjust your routine to stay challenged?

Finding the perfect aerobic activity that suits your preferences, needs, and lifestyle is crucial to achieving your fitness goals and maximizing the longevity benefits of exercise.1Warburton DE, Nicol CW, Bredin SS. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ. 2006 Mar 14;174(6):801-9. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.051351. PMID: 16534088; PMCID: PMC1402378. PubMed Source This guide will help you discover the right aerobic activity for you and ensure that you enjoy your exercise routine, increasing the likelihood of sustaining it long-term for a healthier, more vibrant life.

Assessing Your Current Fitness Level

Before embarking on a new exercise journey, assessing your current fitness level is essential. This will help you select appropriate activities and set realistic, achievable goals. There are several ways to assess your fitness level, and combining these methods can provide a comprehensive understanding of your overall physical health.


Self-assessment

To find the best aerobic activity, you can start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How often do you currently exercise?
  • What types of physical activities do you enjoy?
  • Can you comfortably perform daily tasks without feeling overly tired?

If you have any pre-existing health conditions or concerns, consult with a healthcare professional before beginning a new exercise regimen. They can help you determine your fitness level and suggest suitable activities for you.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

You can calculate your BMI using a few formulas, depending on the units you use. BMI = weight in kilograms / (height in meters)2

1. You can divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared (kg/m²).

2. You can divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared and multiply the result by 703. BMI = (weight in pounds / ((height in inches)2) × 703

This can give you a general indication of whether you are underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. The following gradation is used to classify the range: Underweight (BMI below 18.5), Normal weight (BMI between 18.5 and 24.9), Overweight (BMI between 25 and 29.9), Obesity (BMI greater than or equal to 30). However, BMI does not account for muscle mass or fat distribution, so it’s essential to consider other factors when assessing your fitness level.

Body fat percentage

Measure your body fat percentage using bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) (at-home body fat scales), or dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). A healthy body fat percentage varies by age and gender.2 Gallagher D, Heymsfield SB, Heo M, Jebb SA, Murgatroyd PR, Sakamoto Y. Healthy percentage body fat ranges: an approach for developing guidelines based on body mass index. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Sep;72(3):694-701. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/72.3.694. PMID: 10966886. PubMed Source Knowing your body fat percentage can help you set more accurate fitness goals, especially if you’re aiming to lose weight or gain muscle. This knowledge will guide you to the best aerobic activity for achieving your goal.

Assessing cardiovascular fitness

Assess your cardiovascular fitness by measuring your heart rate at rest and during exercise. Simple tests like the 3-minute Harvard Step Test or the Cooper 12-minute run test can provide insights into your cardiovascular endurance.3 Penry JT, Wilcox AR, Yun J. Validity and reliability analysis of Cooper’s 12-minute run and the multistage shuttle run in healthy adults. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Mar;25(3):597-605. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cc2423. PMID: 20647946. PubMed Source Monitoring your heart rate during exercise can also help you determine your exercise intensity and ensure you’re working within your target heart rate zone.

Assessing flexibility

Assess your flexibility by performing various stretches and observing your range of motion. The sit-and-reach test is commonly used for measuring lower back and hamstring flexibility.4Mayorga-Vega D, Merino-Marban R, Viciana J. Criterion-Related Validity of Sit-and-Reach Tests for Estimating Hamstring and Lumbar Extensibility: a Meta-Analysis. J Sports Sci Med. 2014 Jan 20;13(1):1-14. PMID: 24570599; PMCID: PMC3918544. PubMed Source Improving flexibility is essential to overall fitness and can help prevent injuries.

Assessing strength and endurance

Assess your muscular strength and endurance by performing exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, and squats. Count how many repetitions you can complete in a set amount of time or until you reach muscular fatigue. You can also perform tests like the one-repetition maximum (1RM) test for specific exercises to measure your maximum strength.5 Grgic J, Lazinica B, Schoenfeld BJ, Pedisic Z. Test-Retest Reliability of the One-Repetition Maximum (1RM) Strength Assessment: a Systematic Review. Sports Med Open. 2020 Jul 17;6(1):31. doi: 10.1186/s40798-020-00260-z. PMID: 32681399; PMCID: PMC7367986. PubMed Source This test measures the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one repetition.



Exploring Different Types of Aerobic Activities


There are various types of aerobic activities to choose from, each offering unique benefits. Here are some examples, categorized by impact level.

Low-impact activities

These exercises are gentle on your joints and ideal for beginners or those with joint issues. Examples include walking, swimming, cycling, and yoga. Low-impact activities can help improve cardiovascular health, flexibility, and balance while reducing the risk of injury.6 American College of Sports Medicine; Chodzko-Zajko WJ, Proctor DN, Fiatarone Singh MA, Minson CT, Nigg CR, Salem GJ, Skinner JS. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and physical activity for older adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Jul;41(7):1510-30. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181a0c95c. PMID: 19516148. PubMed Source

Moderate-impact activities

These exercises provide a balance between intensity and ease on the joints. Examples include dancing, brisk walking, hiking, and water aerobics. Moderate-impact aerobic activities can help increase stamina, strengthen muscles, and improve overall fitness levels without putting excessive stress on joints.7Yang YJ. An Overview of Current Physical Activity Recommendations in Primary Care. Korean J Fam Med. 2019 May;40(3):135-142. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.19.0038. Epub 2019 May 20. PMID: 31122003; PMCID: PMC6536904. PubMed Source

High-impact activities

These exercises are more intense and may be more suitable for individuals with a higher fitness level. Examples include running, jump rope, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). High-impact activities can help build stronger bones, enhance cardiovascular health, and increase calorie burning for weight management.8 Said M, Lamya N, Olfa N, Hamda M. Effects of high-impact aerobics vs. low-impact aerobics and strength training in overweight and obese women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2017 Mar;57(3):278-288. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.16.05857-X. Epub 2015 Nov 26. PMID: 26609965. PubMed Source 9 Nordén KR, Dagfinrud H, Semb AG, Hisdal J, Viktil KK, Sexton J, Fongen C, Skandsen J, Blanck T, Metsios GS, Tveter AT. Effect of high-intensity exercise on cardiorespiratory fitness, cardiovascular disease risk and disease activity in patients with inflammatory joint disease: protocol for the ExeHeart randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open. 2022 Feb 17;12(2):e058634. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-058634. PMID: 35177467; PMCID: PMC8860070. PubMed Source

Team Sports

If you enjoy socializing and friendly competition, consider team sports such as soccer, basketball, or ultimate frisbee. These activities can be both fun and effective for improving cardiovascular health, coordination, and mental well-being while fostering a sense of community and camaraderie.10 Andersen MH, Ottesen L, Thing LF. The social and psychological health outcomes of team sport participation in adults: An integrative review of research. Scand J Public Health. 2019 Dec;47(8):832-850. doi: 10.1177/1403494818791405. Epub 2018 Aug 16. PMID: 30113260. PubMed Source


Personal Preferences and Interests


Selecting an aerobic activity that aligns with your hobbies or personal interests increases the likelihood that you will enjoy and stick with your exercise routine. Research suggests that people who are self-motivated tend to exercise more consistently. It’s interesting to note that believing exercise is important is a good predictor of starting an exercise routine, but enjoying the type of activity chosen is even more crucial for sticking with it in the long run.11 Teixeira PJ, Carraça EV, Markland D, Silva MN, Ryan RM. Exercise, physical activity, and self-determination theory: a systematic review. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2012 Jun 22;9:78. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-9-78. PMID: 22726453; PMCID: PMC3441783. PubMed Source

Try various activities to find the right fit. For example, if you enjoy being outdoors, consider hiking or cycling. If you prefer dancing, try a Zumba or salsa class. Pick aerobic exercises that genuinely interest you. If you genuinely look forward to doing it, you are more likely to stick with it for a long time.

Group classes or clubs can be a great way to stay motivated and socially engaged. Look for local classes or clubs that offer the activities you’re interested in, such as running groups or dance studios.

Adapting Aerobic Activity to Your Lifestyle

Make fitness a fun and convenient way of spending time. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is essential for long-term success. By making fitness enjoyable and convenient, you’re more likely to stick with it. Here are some practical tips to help you adapt an aerobic activity to your lifestyle.

  1. Transform your commute. If possible, consider walking or biking to work or running errands instead of driving or taking public transportation. Not only will you get your daily dose of aerobic exercise, but you’ll also save on fuel costs and reduce your carbon footprint.
  2. Schedule your workouts. Treat exercise as an essential appointment in your calendar. Plan your aerobic activity based on your schedule and available time. By setting aside specific times during the week for physical activity, you’ll create a routine that becomes a natural part of your daily life.
  3. Leverage technology. Use fitness apps or wearables to track your progress, set goals, and receive guidance on your aerobic exercise routine. These tools can help you stay motivated, monitor your achievements, and even connect with others who share your fitness goals.12Jakicic JM, Davis KK, Rogers RJ, King WC, Marcus MD, Helsel D, Rickman AD, Wahed AS, Belle SH. Effect of Wearable Technology Combined With a Lifestyle Intervention on Long-term Weight Loss: The IDEA Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2016 Sep 20;316(11):1161-1171. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.12858. Erratum in: JAMA. 2016 Oct 11;316(14 ):1498. PMID: 27654602; PMCID: PMC5480209. PubMed Source
  4. Make it social. Invite friends, family, or coworkers to join you in your aerobic exercises. Exercising with others can be more enjoyable and provide a support system that keeps you motivated and accountable.
  5. Mix it up. Keep your exercise routine fresh and exciting by trying new activities or alternating between different types of aerobic exercises. This not only prevents boredom but can also help you work out various muscle groups and avoid plateaus in your fitness progress.


Overcoming Common Barriers to Exercise


It’s common to face obstacles while maintaining a consistent aerobic activity routine. By recognizing and addressing these barriers, you can overcome them and stay on track. We picked up some common challenges and tips to help you overcome them:

  1. Time constraints. Many people struggle to find the time to exercise due to busy schedules and multiple responsibilities. To overcome this barrier, consider breaking your workout into shorter sessions throughout the day, waking up earlier to exercise, or multitasking by incorporating physical activity into your daily routine, such as walking meetings or doing household chores at a brisk pace.
  2. Lack of motivation. It’s normal for motivation to wane occasionally. To stay inspired, set achievable short-term goals, reward yourself when you reach milestones, and mix up your routine with different activities to keep things interesting. Surrounding yourself with supportive people, such as friends or family members who share your fitness goals, can also boost motivation.
  3. Limited access to facilities. If you don’t have access to a gym or other exercise facilities, explore alternative ways to stay active. Use bodyweight exercises, online workout videos, or inexpensive equipment like resistance bands and jump ropes. Opt for outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, or jogging in a park.
  4. Physical limitations or health concerns. Consult with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program, especially if you have existing health issues or physical limitations. They can help you develop a safe and effective plan tailored to your needs. Low-impact activities such as swimming, walking, or chair-based exercises can be excellent options for those with physical limitations.
  5. Lack of confidence or self-consciousness. If you’re unsure about how to perform specific exercises or feel self-conscious about working out in public, consider joining a beginner’s class, hiring a personal trainer, or using online resources to learn proper techniques. Remember that everyone starts somewhere, and focusing on your progress rather than comparing yourself to others can help build confidence.
  6. Financial constraints. Exercise doesn’t have to be expensive. Look for low-cost or free options like community classes, workout videos on YouTube, or outdoor activities that don’t require a gym membership. Investing in a few basic pieces of home exercise equipment, such as a yoga mat or dumbbells, can also provide versatile workout options without breaking the bank.

Addressing these common barriers and implementing practical solutions can make exercise a consistent and enjoyable part of your daily life, ultimately supporting your journey toward better health and longevity.



Evaluating Your Progress and Adjusting Your Routine

Regularly reviewing your progress toward your goals is essential for maintaining motivation and ensuring that your aerobic exercise plan remains effective.

To evaluate your progress, keep a log of your exercise sessions, noting the type of activity, duration, intensity, and any additional relevant details. This will help you identify patterns, monitor your progress, and make data-driven decisions about your routine.

Periodically, reassess your fitness level by repeating the initial fitness assessments, such as cardiovascular endurance tests and BMI measurements. Comparing these results to your baseline data will prove your progress.

Also, make sure to regularly review your short- and long-term goals to ensure they remain relevant and achievable. As you reach milestones, set new targets to keep yourself challenged and engaged. As your fitness level improves, you may need to increase your workouts’ intensity, duration, or frequency to continue making progress. Varying your activities can also help prevent boredom and plateaus.

And finally, celebrate your achievements by acknowledging your accomplishments, both big and small. It is very important! Reward yourself or share your success with friends and family to boost motivation and reinforce the positive habits you’ve developed.

Recap and final thoughts

The key to reaping the longevity benefits of aerobic exercise lies in finding the right activity for your personal enjoyment and long-term adherence. Explore various options and create a personalized exercise plan that suits your lifestyle, preferences, and goals. By doing so, you can maximize the health benefits of aerobic exercise and enjoy a longer, healthier life.

References

  • 1
    Warburton DE, Nicol CW, Bredin SS. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ. 2006 Mar 14;174(6):801-9. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.051351. PMID: 16534088; PMCID: PMC1402378. PubMed Source
  • 2
    Gallagher D, Heymsfield SB, Heo M, Jebb SA, Murgatroyd PR, Sakamoto Y. Healthy percentage body fat ranges: an approach for developing guidelines based on body mass index. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Sep;72(3):694-701. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/72.3.694. PMID: 10966886. PubMed Source
  • 3
    Penry JT, Wilcox AR, Yun J. Validity and reliability analysis of Cooper’s 12-minute run and the multistage shuttle run in healthy adults. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Mar;25(3):597-605. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cc2423. PMID: 20647946. PubMed Source
  • 4
    Mayorga-Vega D, Merino-Marban R, Viciana J. Criterion-Related Validity of Sit-and-Reach Tests for Estimating Hamstring and Lumbar Extensibility: a Meta-Analysis. J Sports Sci Med. 2014 Jan 20;13(1):1-14. PMID: 24570599; PMCID: PMC3918544. PubMed Source
  • 5
    Grgic J, Lazinica B, Schoenfeld BJ, Pedisic Z. Test-Retest Reliability of the One-Repetition Maximum (1RM) Strength Assessment: a Systematic Review. Sports Med Open. 2020 Jul 17;6(1):31. doi: 10.1186/s40798-020-00260-z. PMID: 32681399; PMCID: PMC7367986. PubMed Source
  • 6
    American College of Sports Medicine; Chodzko-Zajko WJ, Proctor DN, Fiatarone Singh MA, Minson CT, Nigg CR, Salem GJ, Skinner JS. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and physical activity for older adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Jul;41(7):1510-30. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181a0c95c. PMID: 19516148. PubMed Source
  • 7
    Yang YJ. An Overview of Current Physical Activity Recommendations in Primary Care. Korean J Fam Med. 2019 May;40(3):135-142. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.19.0038. Epub 2019 May 20. PMID: 31122003; PMCID: PMC6536904. PubMed Source
  • 8
    Said M, Lamya N, Olfa N, Hamda M. Effects of high-impact aerobics vs. low-impact aerobics and strength training in overweight and obese women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2017 Mar;57(3):278-288. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.16.05857-X. Epub 2015 Nov 26. PMID: 26609965. PubMed Source
  • 9
    Nordén KR, Dagfinrud H, Semb AG, Hisdal J, Viktil KK, Sexton J, Fongen C, Skandsen J, Blanck T, Metsios GS, Tveter AT. Effect of high-intensity exercise on cardiorespiratory fitness, cardiovascular disease risk and disease activity in patients with inflammatory joint disease: protocol for the ExeHeart randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open. 2022 Feb 17;12(2):e058634. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-058634. PMID: 35177467; PMCID: PMC8860070. PubMed Source
  • 10
    Andersen MH, Ottesen L, Thing LF. The social and psychological health outcomes of team sport participation in adults: An integrative review of research. Scand J Public Health. 2019 Dec;47(8):832-850. doi: 10.1177/1403494818791405. Epub 2018 Aug 16. PMID: 30113260. PubMed Source
  • 11
    Teixeira PJ, Carraça EV, Markland D, Silva MN, Ryan RM. Exercise, physical activity, and self-determination theory: a systematic review. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2012 Jun 22;9:78. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-9-78. PMID: 22726453; PMCID: PMC3441783. PubMed Source
  • 12
    Jakicic JM, Davis KK, Rogers RJ, King WC, Marcus MD, Helsel D, Rickman AD, Wahed AS, Belle SH. Effect of Wearable Technology Combined With a Lifestyle Intervention on Long-term Weight Loss: The IDEA Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2016 Sep 20;316(11):1161-1171. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.12858. Erratum in: JAMA. 2016 Oct 11;316(14 ):1498. PMID: 27654602; PMCID: PMC5480209. PubMed Source
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