The History of Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is a type of physical exercise that is done to improve the way the cardiovascular system works. It aims to make the system more efficient in the absorption and transportation of oxygen. There are many different types of aerobic exercise and these exercises are done for extended periods at a moderate intensity level.


This type of exercise was developed by Kenneth H. Cooper M.D. who was an exercise physiologist. In 1970, Dr. Cooper resigned from the United States Air Force, with a rank of Lieutenant Colonel, to open his own clinic to study health and longevity. He has since written 18 books and is nicknamed “the father of aerobics.”

The Quest Begins

Dr. Cooper was puzzled about why certain people, who were in excellent strength, still performed poorly at activities such as long distance running, swimming or biking. He wanted to find out why this was happening and set out to do so. Dr. Cooper began by measuring human performance with a bicycle ergometer. This is an instrument used for measuring the amount of work done by a muscle or a group of muscles. He also measured sustained performance and how it related to a persons ability to use oxygen.

First Bestseller

In 1968, Dr. Cooper published his first book called Aerobics. This book became a bestseller and includes many exercise programs and incorporated running programs, walking, swimming and bicycling programs. This book was the beginning of what we know today to be aerobic programs.

After his first book was published, a woman named Jackie Sorenson took what she learned in that book and developed dance routines that incorporated the principles from the book. These dance routines came to be known as aerobic dance and was done to improve cardiovascular health.

In addition to his books, Dr. Cooper has opened many clinics that research how fitness and exercise affect the body. He developed fitness testing that is used currently by the military, colleges and universities, athletes and law enforcement. This includes a 12-minute run, a 1.5 mile run and the Aerobics Points Systems.

Because of his research, legislation has been created to get physical fitness textbooks into schools in the state of Texas.  These textbooks have been used by the youth in the state to get them thinking about their health and to promote a healthier lifestyle.

Branching Out

In 1989, step aerobics was started. A college competitive gymnast named Gin Miller had sustained an injury due to overuse during high-impact aerobics. During physical therapy, her rehabilitation was to step up and down on a milk box. She would do this over and over and she would even do this at home. While at home, she would use her front porch step and over time this became repetitive and boring. To break up the boredom and the silence, she starting doing this with upbeat music playing.  This lead to what is known today as step aerobics.

Aerobics is a type of activity that is fairly new to the world and is growing each day in popularity. This type of exercise will get the heart pumping and will improve the cardiovascular system.


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