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What Are The Differences Between Aerobic And Anaerobic Exercise?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Aerobic exercises are exercises which require oxygen. They may help in reducing the build-up of carbon dioxide in the arteries and have been proven beneficial for the cardiovascular system of the body. This is why aerobic exercises are also commonly referred to as ‘cardio’ exercises. Aerobic exercises increase the breathing rate. It also increases the rate at which the heart pumps blood and thus increases its efficiency. Aerobic exercises typically require a lot of energy. This growing demand for energy in the muscles is supplied by the oxygenated blood pumped by the heart. Aerobic exercises can be of varying intensities and are suitable for both beginners and professionals.

Anaerobic exercises involve short and quick bursts of energy which does not require oxygen the way it does in aerobic exercises. Instead of that, the glucose which is already present in the muscles is utilized for the production of energy. Anaerobic exercises require quick sources of energy unlike aerobic exercises and thus break down the stored glucose. 

Aerobic exercises are preferred by beginners since the various intensities help build endurance. They can slowly work their way up unlike anaerobic exercises which require a lot of endurance right from the beginning. Anaerobic exercises are preferred for fitness goals which require quick visible results like weight reduction.

What are the benefits of aerobic exercises?

Aerobic exercises have several benefits. Some of them are the following:

  • May boost the immune system and reduce the risk of viral infections.
  • May lower the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Good for your heart.
  • May help maintain your Body Mass Index (BMI) and body weight.
  • Increases basal metabolic rate.
  • Keeps your skin glowing and hair healthy.
  • Promotes blood circulation in the kidneys and benefits its health.
  • Helps release feel-good hormones in the body. Lowers the stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
  • It may help to slow down the rate of age-related degeneration of overall health.

Aerobic exercise like running and swimming etc involves continuous movement fueled by oxygen from the air you breathe and it improves your stamina and endurance. Anaerobic exercises like weight training, sprint involves short bursts of high-intensity movement fueled by energy stored in your fat and muscles and hence are ideal for burning fat.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

What are the risks of aerobic exercises?

Aerobic exercises are usually beneficial for all. The varying intensities- low, moderate and advanced levels- make it suitable for everyone. However, if you have any pre-existing chronic illness or orthopaedic issues please consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise. Work out under the guidance of a certified fitness instructor to avoid the risk of any injury. This advice is especially beneficial for individuals who have been inactive for a long period and wish to start training.

Having protein before you exercise, in combination with carbohydrates, can help to decrease muscle damage during exercise and also improve the muscle recovery process that takes place after exercise. Some options that you can include as protein-rich sources- eggs, Greek yoghurt, chicken, fish and tofu.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.

Some aerobic exercises

Due to the versatile nature of aerobic exercises, they can be performed both at the gym and home without any equipment. Some popular beginner-friendly aerobic exercises include the following:

  • Skipping rope

Skipping is a fun way of getting some exercise. For this exercise, only a skipping rope is required. It may help improve hand and foot coordination and is a good way of reducing body weight. Skipping may improve flexibility and keep the joints healthy.

Walking at the speed of 3 miles per hour approximately qualifies as brisk walking. Anything around 100 steps per minute is considered brisk walking and may vary from person to person. Brisk walking is more efficient compared to just walking. It may regulate hormone production, boost metabolic speed and improve the quality of sleep. An individual only needs to invest in a good pair of walking shoes before starting brisk walking to avoid the risk of injuries.

  • Jogging or running

Jogging or running helps keep the bones and joints healthy and may reduce the risk of mental health disorders. Jogging for 20 minutes two to three days a week is enough for someone just getting started with aerobic exercises.

  • Swimming

Swimming is a great way of shedding excess fat as it engages the entire body. It is a fun way of getting exercise while beating the heat of summerit also increases your basal metabolic rate and helps reduce weight too.

  • Cycling

Cycling can help strengthen the muscles of the legs. It is an exercise whose daily goals can be obtained even while going grocery shopping or while commuting to work. Cross action Static cycling is a good option for indoor cycling that will increase your endurance increase your range of motion of the hip joint and strengthen your knee joint.

What are the benefits of anaerobic exercises?

The many benefits of anaerobic exercises are listed below.

  • May increase stamina and energy.
  • May increase endurance.
  • Helps strengthen and condition muscles.
  • It may help burn calories at an exponential rate.
  • Supports strong bones and joints.

What are the risks of anaerobic exercises?

Anaerobic exercises can be strenuous for beginners and must be performed under the guidance of a certified fitness instructor. An individual should only continue with anaerobic exercises if their body does not get too fatigued or stressed.

Some anaerobic exercises

Anaerobic exercises are of several types. Some anaerobic exercises are listed below.

  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

High-Intensity Interval Training is great for reducing excess body fat within a short period. An example is plank jacks.

  • Weight lifting

Heavy weight lifting is a high impact exercise and requires a moderate to advanced level of endurance. Weight lifting in an improper manner can result in severe injuries.

  • Sprinting

Sprinting is usually performed while doing some other exercise such as running, swimming or cycling.

  • Callisthenics

Exercises such as jump squats or box jumps qualify as callisthenics. These are high-intensity exercises which strengthen and condition the muscles.

In a Nutshell

Aerobic exercises are more beginner-friendly than anaerobic exercises. Anaerobic exercises are great for fitness goals which require results within a very short time.

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.


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