You may already know about the potential benefits and importance of aerobic exercise in your life. But, what about anaerobic exercise? This distinct form of exercise may provide extra health perks when done in tandem with aerobic exercises. Learn more about anaerobic exercises and how they may support your overall health and exercise regimen.
What Is Anaerobic Exercise?
Anaerobic fitness is often characterized as any short-interval, high-intensity exercise, like weight lifting or plyometrics. These quick bursts of activity use energy readily stored in your muscles. Using this unique energy source limits how long you can sustain anaerobic exercise. However, utilizing the muscles for energy also makes anaerobic exercises particularly efficient at building muscle mass and burning fat.1
Potential Health Benefits Of Anaerobic Exercise
When you perform short, intense exercise it fires up your anaerobic metabolism. This metabolic reaction creates adenosine triphosphate, a unique source of energy that only lasts for about 30 seconds. Using this short-term energy source can support your cardiorespiratory system, making you stronger and more powerful.2
In addition to supporting your strength and overall power, anaerobic exercise may also help:
- Support bone density
- Maintain muscle mass
- Promote overall muscle strength3
Different Types Of Anaerobic Exercise
All this talk about short, intense strength training may conjure images of dumbbells and the gym. But, there are many ways to do anaerobic resistance training right at home without any weights. Some great anaerobic training methods include:
- Working out with resistance bands
- Using your own body weight for workouts, like push-ups or sit-ups
- Certain types of yoga
- Yard work or heavy gardening (digging, shoveling, raking)4
How To Know When You’re Doing Anaerobic Exercise
For the best results, it’s recommended that you perform any resistance training up until the moment that it feels too difficult to do another repetition. At this point, you should rest and then try to repeat another set of the same physical activity. For example, you may do a set of 5-10 push-ups, rest, then do 1 or 2 more sets.5
Note: Always speak to a doctor before doing any new exercises or strength training.
How Much Anaerobic Exercise Do You Need?
The CDC recommends that adults perform anaerobic exercise like weightlifting at least 2 days a week. Strength training should include all the major muscles – legs, arms, back, and chest – in addition to regular aerobic exercise, like running or biking. You can do anaerobic exercises on the same day as your aerobic exercises or on different days.6
Anaerobic Exercise VS Aerobic Exercise
Anaerobic exercise and aerobic exercise are two distinct types of fitness, each with their own unique advantages. Despite their differences, both aerobic and anaerobic exercise can be good for you and provide potential health benefits. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose one or the other: it’s recommended that you do both.
Aerobic Exercise — A Quick Breakdown
Unlike anaerobic exercise – which involves quick, intense movements – aerobic workouts are typically longer and more sustained in nature. They are often characterized as rhythmic activities that engage large muscles for extended periods of time. This synchronized muscle movement activates your aerobic metabolism to provide energy over a wider timeframe.7
Most aerobic intensity exercises use oxygen to break down carbohydrates and fats. As long as you have enough oxygen, your muscles can continue to contract over an extended period of time. In this way, you can sustain an aerobic activity without being totally out of breath.8
Common examples of moderate aerobic training include:
- Bike riding
- Brisk walking
What’s The Difference Between Anaerobic And Aerobic Exercise?
In the simplest terms, aerobic and anaerobic exercises use different fuel sources. Aerobic exercises – prolonged activities that increase your heart rate, blood flow, and breathing – require oxygen for energy. Anaerobic training, on the other hand, uses adenosine triphosphate from the muscles instead of oxygen.10,11
How Can You Tell The Difference Between The Two?
Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise will increase your breathing and heart rate. But, there’s an important distinction between the two: how long you can perform the activity. Aerobic exercises can be maintained for more than two minutes and, ideally, for up to 60 or 90 minutes. Your breathing should increase, but not so much that you’re gasping for air.12
During high-intensity anaerobic exercises, however, you can’t provide your muscles with enough oxygen to sustain an intense activity. So, you will most likely feel physically unable to continue with an exercise longer than about 10 or 15 seconds.13
Maximize Results With A Dual Approach
The American Heart Association recommends that you perform 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. In addition to that, you are also encouraged to include 2 days of resistance strength training. Performing both types of exercise in your weekly exercise routine may provide you with optimal health benefits.14
Aerobic activities can be great for your cardiovascular health, mental well-being, flexibility, and weight loss. Anaerobic workouts tend to help more with building muscle mass and promoting bone density. For these reasons, you may want to include a little of both in your fitness plan for the most comprehensive fitness strategy possible.15
Older adults, in particular, may enjoy many potential health benefits by performing both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Studies show that the combination of both exercises can help support overall quality of life.16 Just make sure to get your doctors approval before beginning any new exercise routine.
Try A Little Aerobic And Anaerobic For The Best Results
Many people know how to perform common aerobic exercises, like running, walking, or biking. But, you can take your fitness to a whole new level by also including anaerobic exercise into your weekly exercise routine.
Short and intense anaerobic exercises can build muscle and support bone density more effectively than aerobic exercise. That’s why it’s generally a good idea to include both aerobic and anaerobic exercise in your fitness plan. This way, you can provide yourself with the most comprehensive set of potential health benefits possible. But, before you begin, speak to a health care provider about the best fitness plan for you.
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