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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Which Aerobic Exercise is Right for You?
Tommy O’Connor, MS, CSCS

Starting off the New Year with a new exercise plan is a great way to build healthy habits into your daily routine.  But finding out which aerobic machine or exercise will give you the biggest benefit can be very confusing.   Walk into your local gym and there is typically a plethora of aerobic equipment and aerobic exercise options.  Click Here for a list of important benefits each of the popular machines and exercises has to offer you:

Treadmill:  This is a great aerobic exercise due to its functionality and health benefits.  Walking is something most people will do their entire life. The more you do something the better you can get at it!  From the health benefit standpoint, there are many advantages to the treadmill.  Due to its higher impact, the treadmill can also have a dramatic effect on helping out the bone densities of the lower body and spine, but no benefit for the upper body.  The calories burned on a treadmill are also higher because you are carrying your own weight, along with stabilizing the entire body during movement.

Stationary Bicycle:  Cycling is a better suited exercise for those who cannot perform impact type activities such as jogging.  This can place less compounding stress on the lower back (but also can contribute to postural deviations of the hip and back) and be easier to balance than weight-bearing machines.  There can be less bone density benefit because of this lower impact.  This is also important for cyclist because of the specificity of training for their sport. 

Rower:  Rowing is a good exercise for aerobic health while involving both lower and upper body muscle groups.  Even though there are a lot of muscles involved in rowing, it is still not as calorie-burning friendly as the treadmill.  Rowing is good for sport-specific rowing, cross training benefits, and large aerobic capacity increases.

Elliptical: The elliptical has become a popular machine, and rightfully so.  It offers similar health benefits along with bone loading without the harsh impact with the ground.  Unfortunately, the motion of the elliptical is only good for your time on the elliptical.  The specificity of training here is not as practical in everyday activities, this will generally be the only time you will coordinate your hands and legs in this manner.

Swimming:  Swimming is a great aerobic activity - producing very high aerobic capacities and associated health benefits.  Swimming is a good form of exercise for aerobic capacity utilizing all muscle groups, and a minimal impact on hip bone density.  Swimming is relatively no impact and can be easier on your joints than most other forms of aerobic exercise.  Swimming is great for sport-specific swimming, part of rehabilitation for injuries, and overall health and aerobic benefits.

Aerobic Classes:  Aerobics classes can vary significantly in their types, but generally have some impact component to them (aside from spinning).  This is great for bone density and also helps burn calories because of the weight bearing component.  Aerobics classes offer a fun, people filled environment, but is significantly limited to classes and times that are available to you.

There are many other factors along with bone density, heart health, and caloric expenditure that may persuade one aerobic machine over another.  Using one machine too often can lead to overuse injuries. Cross training on different machines is always recommended to reduce this risk.  Find which cardiovascular piece of equipment fits your goals and which piece of equipment you enjoy. Because the best form exercise is the one you’ll actually do!

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