Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise uses large muscle groups and causes your heart rate to rise during the activity. Heart and lung fitness are improved, and strenuous tasks become easier.

Popular forms of aerobic exercise include walking and cycling, but everyday activities such as digging in the garden also count. You can also build aerobic exercise into your daily routine, for example, by always walking up stairs instead of using a lift; parking some distance from your destination and walking the rest of the way; or riding a stationary bike while watching TV.

Topics on this page:

Types of aerobic exercise

  • Aerobics/cardio classes
  • Aquarobics
  • Boxing training
  • Bushwalking
  • Cleaning
  • Cycling
  • Dancing
  • Gardening
  • Golf
  • Jogging
  • Lawn mowing
  • Rowing
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Team sports
  • Tennis
  • Walking
Read more types of aerobic exercise

How much?

You need to find a balance between not working hard enough and working too hard. If you do not work hard enough, you may not achieve your exercise goals. If you work too hard, you risk injury.

Exercise at a level you are comfortable with, but try to vary the duration and intensity.

Adults should aim for at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week (or 1¼ hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week). If you have just completed cancer treatment, this may seem ambitious, but it is a goal to work towards steadily. Remember that some exercise is better than none.

For extra health benefits, you can exercise beyond this recommendation by gradually increasing the frequency and duration of your exercise sessions and then increasing exercise intensity.

If you were very fit before your cancer diagnosis, your goal may be to maintain or return to your weekly activity levels.

Measuring exercise intensity

How hard your body is working during physical activity is known as exercise intensity and is often described as low, moderate or vigorous. There are different ways to measure the intensity of your aerobic exercise. A simple method is the talk test.

How easy is it to talk?

Exercise intensity

You are able to sing


You can carry on a conversation but need to pause for breath from time to time


You are huffing and puffing and keeping conversation short

Moderate to vigorous

You find it difficult to speak


This information was last reviewed in April 2016
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