Aerobic activity/exercise Exercise

This type of exercise is any physical activity that makes your heart beat faster and/or increases your rate of breathing. It uses large groups of muscles and, once established, ideally you should be able to sustain it comfortably for a number of minutes.
  • Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, swimming, using an exercise bike, propelling your wheelchair, doing housework and gardening.
  •  Aerobic activity/exercise improves the function of your heart, circulation and lungs. By improving your general fitness, this type of activity is also good for your overall health and may help prevent chronic disease.
  •  Relatively small increases in physical activity can protect you against chronic disease and can improve your quality of life by allowing you to do a little more each day.
  •  Discuss with your cardiologist, physiotherapist or neurologist what type of aerobic activity may be best for you.

How often should I do aerobic activity/exercise and how long should each exercise session last?

  • Make a note of what you can do and for how long.
  •  Start with what you can do comfortably.
  •  Gradually increase the length or frequency of sessions. Remember, though, that if you’re having a bad day in terms of fatigue, you may not be able to do much. Don’t give up and feel as though you have taken a backward step. This is entirely normal, and you can restart your activity practice once you’re feeling better.
  •  Make sure you include rest periods for your muscles to recover and to limit fatigue.
  •  Try to spread your physical activity/exercise sessions across the week to fit in with your lifestyle and other home/work commitments.

Key messages

  •  Something is better than nothing.
  •  Aim not to be still for too long.
  •  Ensure you pace activity with rest as needed

How hard should I exercise?

  •  Aim for moderate intensity physical activity.
  •  To exercise at a moderate intensity, you will:  Feel warmer and perspire a little. You will take deeper breaths, but should still be able to talk comfortably in full sentences (try repeating this when exercising: this exercise is good for me).
  •  Using the ‘Borg RPE Scale’, you should work up to the RPE Scale levels 3-5 if you can.
  •  Rate how you feel at the beginning of the activity, see what you can do safely and comfortably, and keep this as your starting point from which to work.
  • Longer and more strenuous activity/exercise sessions should also include a three to five-minute warm-up to increase your body temperature and reduce the potential for post-exercise stiffness, and a five- to ten-minute cool-down to allow recovery of your heart rate. Your therapist can help you decide how you do this

In summary:

What type of activity?   How often? How hard? How long? What do I need to be careful of?

Aerobic exercise For example, walking to work, wheeling your wheelchair, activities of daily living, cycling, swimming or static bike

Any activity that uses large muscle groups and that can be maintained continuously and rhythmically for a period of time.

Try to make being active part of your daily routine or try to be active in these ways at least five times a week. 

Comfortably out of breath but still able to talk; Borg RPE Scale 3 to 5.

30 minutes intermittent bouts aiming for at least 10 minutes.

Do not exercise to exhaustion Use the Borg RPE Scale as a guide.