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Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Workouts

September 4, 2019 by

When you’re running on the treadmill, you probably maintain a steady (albeit high) heart and breathing rate, but when you do HIIT training, you go through periods of gasping for air and resting.

This is important because it differentiates aerobic and anaerobic workouts. Your body can create energy either anaerobically (meaning without oxygen) or aerobically (with oxygen). Both of these ways have a unique impact on your body, and knowing the process of each can help you increase your calorie burn as well as your overall strength and endurance.

Anaerobic Exercise

Any exercise that is performed at a high intensity to the point that your body doesn’t have the necessary energy to finish it solely relying on oxygen intake is considered to be anaerobic. Anaerobic exercises mainly use fast twitch muscle fibers that only work for a short amount of time without getting aid from extra inhaled oxygen.

Without oxygen, your body uses up the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and sugar in your muscle cells to produce energy. However, this process can’t continue for over 90 to 120 seconds of high-intensity activity because your muscles create lactic acid during those times of high intensity, and after that is over, you need to inhale oxygen to help break down the glucose and fatty acids. This way, your body will continue to produce energy, which is when your aerobic energy system becomes key.

Anaerobic is high intensity workouts that are typically completed in several intervals, such as HIIT workouts. Other examples of anaerobic exercises are plyometrics, sprinting, and lifting weights because you’re putting forth all of your energy in a short period of time. However, this amount of effort isn’t sustainable. A lot of sports involve anaerobic bursts with periods of rest in between.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobics refers to more low-intensity exercises that are designed to help you maintain an increased heart rate for a longer period of time. This means anything where your oxygen intake can provide your body with the amount of energy that is necessary to sustain the exercise without having to turn to other sources of energy. These workouts mainly focus on your slow twitch muscle fibers and the sugars and fatty acids that your anaerobic system has produced for fuel, which can help you maintain a level of activity for a longer period of time.

Any low to moderate-intensity workout is considered to be aerobic. This includes things like walking, running, biking, or swimming. You won’t have to gasp for air during these workouts because your body continues to consume enough oxygen at a steady pace for you to power through.

Why Are These Workouts Important?

It is important to do both of these types of exercise if you want to burn fat. Aerobic exercises help burn fat because you maintain a level of oxygen in your muscle tissue. Aerobic exercise also improves your heart health by strengthening your cardiovascular system and potentially increasing your oxygen intake, which can improve your endurance.

Alternatively, anaerobic exercises such as HIIT can burn more calories in total in a shorter amount of time. HIIT training can be especially helpful for developing power, building muscle, and burning fat. These exercises will also help strengthen your joints and bones because they put an increased amount of impact on your body.

Consider the bodies of elite athletes. A typical marathoner follows a training program that is mainly aerobic in nature, while someone who does CrossFit would prioritize an anaerobic program. But doing both styles of training together will maximize your ability to burn calories, increase your endurance, and improve heart health, leading to positive body transformation.

When you practice both types of exercise, you get the benefits of building muscle with your anaerobic work, while improving your stamina and endurance with your aerobic workout. So, make time to do both anaerobic and aerobic workouts during the week. Studies have shown that doing three or four days of anaerobic exercise is optimal if you want to see results, as long as you rest properly in between. Anything more than this can increase your likelihood of injuring yourself.

On the other hand, aerobic exercise can be done every day. Adults should aim for 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week, which could be split up from two to five days, as long as your heart rate stays 75% of your maximum.

Try starting with one or two aerobic workouts each week with one anaerobic exercise intermixed and increase from there.

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