Conversely, anaerobic exercise is a short burst of activity that primarily focuses on strength and muscle tone. Anaerobic exercise generally consists of a shorter period of exercising using all-out effort or maximum intensity for that period. Examples include sprinting, shot put, powerlifting, etc. Although both aerobic and anaerobic physical activity provides many of the same benefits, such as increased cardiovascular fitness and weight loss, both types also have some unique advantages.
Aerobic exercise is often associated with endurance sports like distance running and cycling that can be sustained for long periods. During aerobic activity oxygen is delivered to your tissues, including your muscles, and consumed by special structures in your cells called mitochondria. As you work out, your muscles require more and more oxygen to meet their energy needs. The greater the oxygen demand, the harder and faster your heart pumps, sending more blood — and therefore delivering more oxygen — to your muscles.
This is what separates aerobic exercise from anaerobic:
During anaerobic activity, your cells use an oxygen molecule (O2), but mitochondria are not involved and can’t keep up with its demand. Anaerobic exercise causes a build-up of lactic acid which leads to muscle fatigue and soreness.
Benefits of aerobic exercise
Aerobic activity stimulates the development of new blood vessels forming in the muscles being used, which leads to an increase in blood flow and more efficient delivery of oxygen. This, in turn, promotes muscle growth and endurance.
The idea that aerobic exercise is the most beneficial for overall health has been suggested over the past few decades, but recent research suggests otherwise. While aerobic activity can burn a significant amount of calories and improve your cardiovascular system, several studies have found that anaerobic exercise can also provide these benefits.
In addition to improving cardiovascular fitness and body composition, high-intensity interval training has been credited with increasing muscular strength, power, endurance, and bone density without changing metabolism. In addition to this, it has shown promise in the treatment of many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
In one study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, men who completed a 12-week anaerobic training program consisting of eight exercises three times a week saw significant decreases in their blood pressure as well as improvements to their body composition. Although aerobic exercise is generally considered important for weight loss, anaerobic activity has been linked with increased metabolic rates and appetite suppression.
Aerobic exercise may be important for advanced athletes or those who want to lose weight and develop cardiovascular health, but it’s clear that anaerobic exercise holds numerous benefits as well and should not be overlooked.