aerobics (ârō´biks), [Gr.,=with oxygen], system of endurance exercises that promote cardiovascular fitness by producing and sustaining an elevated heart rate for a prolonged period of time, thereby pumping an increased amount of oxygen-rich blood to the muscles being used. Such aerobic activities as running, swimming, and cycling can improve the body's use of oxygen, thereby allowing the heart to work less strenuously. Major Kenneth H. Cooper, a physician, pioneered the field with Aerobics (1968), which outlined fitness programs based on his study of 50,000 U.S. Air Force men and women. Since the 1980s, the term has indicated a specific type of physical fitness routine that involves a fast-paced series of exercises usually performed to the accompaniment of music. Variations include aerobic dance, jazz dance exercise, step aerobics, and low-impact aerobics. Aerobics has become one of the most popular forms of physical exercise in the United States, spawning growing memberships in exercise clubs and creating a large commercial market that includes celebrity exercise videotapes and aerobic gear.
See P. Malfetone and M. Mantell, The High Performance Heart (1991).