When you breathe, your lungs take oxygen from the air and put it into your blood. Your heart pumps this oxygen-rich blood through your blood vessels to your muscles. Your muscles use the oxygen to burn sugar (in the form of glycogen) and fat to give you energy. To keep you running for the whole soccer game, your muscles demand more and more oxygen- rich blood. That makes your heart beat faster and faster to keep up.
Aerobic exercise involves continual rhythmic movement of your large muscles, especially your leg and buttocks muscles. Aerobic exercise is lower intensity exercise that you do for longer periods of time. For example, running a long distance at an average pace is an aerobic activity. But sprinting a short distance is not because of its high intensity. And swimming is an aerobic activity. But volleyball and softball, with their more frequent breaks, are not.
With regular aerobic exercise, your heart muscle and the muscles that move air in and out of your lungs will grow stronger. As that happens, they’ll meet your voluntary muscles’ demands for oxygen without as much effort. And, over time, all your muscles will begin to use oxygen more efficiently. That means you’ll burn more sugar and fat, be more aerobically fit, and play soccer—or any sport you choose—longer without getting tired or out of breath.
There are many kinds of aerobic exercise. Some, like riding a stationary bike, are done only for the aerobic benefit. Others, like basketball, are played for fun and competition and the aerobic benefit is a welcome result.
One last thing: After hard aerobic exercise, it’s a good idea to walk around for a few minutes to get your breathing back to normal and slow your heartbeat down. If time allows, it’s also a good idea to stretch your major muscle groups again. Stretching after you exercise will stop your muscles from cramping and getting sore.
Here are some good aerobic activities:
- Cross-country skiing
- In-line, ice, and roller skating
- Running and jogging
- Jumping rope
- Stair climbing