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Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise: Differences & Benefits

All exercise is good exercise, but a combo of aerobic and anaerobic exercise is best. What exactly is the difference between them? BistroMD is "working out" those distinctions!

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise: Differences & Benefits

All exercise is better than going without. But most health experts will agree the combination of both aerobic and anaerobic exercise is best.

So, what exactly are the differences between the two? BistroMD is "working out" those exercise distinctions!

Aerobic Vs. Anaerobic Exercise

Aerobic and anaerobic exercises are excellent forms of physical activity. However, knowing the differences between each can take fitness to the next level.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic is defined as "living, active, or occurring in the presence of oxygen." So when it comes down to the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise, oxygen is the key factor.

With aerobic exercise, oxygen supplies energy to sustain continuous, rhythmic movements of large muscles. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are able to move and contract repeatedly without fast fatigue.

The body likewise uses carbohydrate and glycogen stores as its primary fuel source during the initial 20 minutes. After 20 minutes of constant movement, the body starts to burn body fat to power the muscles and body. This is known as "aerobic fat-burning."

Aerobic exercises include jogging and running, brisk walking, cycling, dancing, and canoeing. Really, any activity that elevates heart rate counts as aerobic exercise.

Anaerobic Exercise

Unlike aerobic, anaerobic exercises occur in the absence of oxygen. Instead, anaerobic exercise relies on energy breakdown from muscle stores rather than oxygen supply during aerobic activity.

Also unlike aerobic exercise and their constant flow of movement, anaerobic exercise is short in duration at high-intensity levels. It often uses fast-twitch muscle fibers to carry out short bursts of high-powered exercises.

Anaerobic exercise is typically unable to be carried out for more than two to three minutes at a time. Eventually, muscles will tire, weaken, feel discomfort, and require a break. Breaks within repetitions allow muscles to rest and the exerciser to "catch their breath." The resting phase is then transitioned to aerobic exercise.

Anaerobic exercises to try include sprints, weightlifting, high jumping, and high-intensity interval training. These exercises are suggested to increase muscular size and strength, along with creating the "afterburn effect." Officially known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), the afterburn helps burn more calories after the vigorous activity is completed.

Interestingly, too, all exercises start out as anaerobic exercise as the body starts to undertake and adapt to the workout. Activities such as basketball and soccer tend to require both anaerobic and aerobic fuel sources.

Key Differences

To sum it up, key differences between aerobic and anaerobic include:

• The use of oxygen is what allows distance runners to cover several miles over long periods of time. Sprint runners, on the other hand, use anaerobic systems to power short distances quickly.

• Slow-twitch muscle fibers are primarily used during aerobic activity, while fast-twitch muscle fibers are contracted during anaerobic activity.

• Aerobic exercise is performed steadily, which is great for cardiovascular conditioning and muscular endurance. Anaerobic exercise is quick in duration and results to greater strength. However, building a tolerance to fatigue during anaerobic exercise can also enhance performance.

Despite the contrasts of each, both aerobic and anaerobic exercises offer worthy health benefits.

Benefits of Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise

The benefits of aerobic and anaerobic exercise encompass physical, mental, and emotional health. Including each into an exercise program and being physically active helps:

• Support a healthy metabolism

• Assist in weight loss and maintenance goals

• Build strength and muscle mass

• Reduce overall body fat

• Heighten heart and lung capacity and function

• Bolster the immune system to ward off illness and infection

• Reduce the risk of health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease

• Increase bone mineral density, in turn protecting from bone loss and fractures

• Improve glucose tolerance and blood sugar regulation

• Lend greater feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem

• Boost mood and energy

• Encourage independence

• Add on precious years of life

Exercise Recommendations

Ready to get started? Consider these tips to exercise the right way:

1. Check with a doctor first.

Before beginning any sort of exercise program, check with a doctor to ensure safety. This is particularly important if managing a health condition like diabetes.

2. Wear appropriate exercise attire.

Wearing the right attire is important to ensure comfort while exercising. It helps protect from injury, such as when wearing the right shoe while running.

2. Partake in exercise regularly.

The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of cardio per week. This breaks down to 30 minutes most days of the week.

Incorporate strength training at least two to three times a week, too. Focus on the major muscle groups, including the back, chest, core, arms, and legs.

3. Work up to the recommendations.

Slowly increase intensity and duration over several weeks or months to prevent injury. This may include brisk walking for a couple of weeks, then slowly transitioning into a light jog.

Also, aim for target heart rate during moderate-intensity exercises or about 50 to 70 percent of max heart rate. Vigorous exercise is about 70 to 85 percent of max.

4. Make sure to warm-up and cool-down.

Start workouts with light activity and warm-ups such as jumping jacks and a light walk or jog. Doing so warms up muscles and starts to elevate heart rate.

Following a workout, be sure to cool down to bring down the heart rate. Stretch while muscles are still warm, too.

5. Hydrate and fuel appropriately.

Increase fluid intake to decrease the risk of dehydration and muscle cramps. As a general rule, drink 16 ounces of water leading up to the activity. Drink six to 12 ounces immediately prior to exercise and during every 15 to 20 minutes of active training.

Fuel with a light carb-rich snack prior to a workout, including a piece a fruit. Refuel with a protein-rich, moderate carb snack following an intense workout such as yogurt and berries. This helps begin the muscle recovery process and replenish glycogen stores.

6. Lift weights with proper form.

There is no doubt strength training is highly beneficial. However, the importance of lifting weights with proper form cannot be stressed enough.

Lift an appropriate weight and focus on good form over cranking out haphazard reps.

7. Allow the body rest days.

More does not always mean better, as the body needs rest for muscle recovery.

However, on "off days," active recovery can be beneficial. Lighter activities include yoga and a leisurely hike in nature.