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AEROBICS, meaning “with oxygen,” refers to physical exercise to improve cardiorespiratory endurance. Aerobic movement is rhythmic and repetitive, engaging the large muscle groups in the arms and legs for at least twenty minutes at each session. The ensuing demand for a continuous supply of oxygen creates the aerobic training effect, physiological changes that enhance the ability of the lungs, heart, and blood vessels to transport oxygen throughout the body. The most beneficial aerobic exercises include cross-country skiing, swimming, running, cycling, walking, and aerobic dance. Activities that rely on brief or discontinuous bursts of energy, such as weight lifting, are anaerobic (“without oxygen”).

An early proponent of aerobics was Kenneth H. Cooper, a medical doctor whose 1968 bookAerobics introduced the first exercise program for cardiorespiratory improvement. Cooper also founded the Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas. The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America certifies aerobics instructors and sets equipment and training standards.

Aerobic movement as a formal exercise has been popular since the late 1960s. The correlation between optimum physical activity and lowered incidence of cardiovascular disease gained wide medical acceptance. Exercise also appears to strengthen the immune system and ameliorate depression. Aerobic workout innovations from the 1980s to the early 2000s included such equipment as steps, weights, and elastic bands; cross-training programs, which involve two or more types of exercise; aerobic dances that combine yoga, martial arts, and other forms of movement with music, including African, Caribbean, salsa, hip-hop, rock, and jazz; and adaptations of such traditional activities as bicycling and boxing into aerobic routines such as spinning and cardio-kickboxing.


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