Differences Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercises

Aerobic and anaerobic exercises have key differences and it's necessary to know what these are so you know how to train. In this article, we present the key characteristics of each.
Differences Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercises

Last update: 23 March, 2021

Some people are weightlifting fanatics and others prefer to do spin classes. It all depends on the objectives and preferences of each person, but it’s worth knowing the differences between aerobic and anaerobic exercises.

Moving forward, the main difference is related to the way the body gets its energy, However, there’s so much more you can learn about this. Keep reading to find out!

What are aerobic exercises?

To get started, we’ll define aerobic exercises. Basically, aerobic exercises are low to moderate intensity exercises that you do for longer than 25 minutes. In order to do these, the body needs a lot of oxygen.

When we do aerobic exercises, we improve our cardiovascular system – speeding up the blood flow and our breathing – which helps to burn fat. For that reason, this is often recommended for people that want to lose weight. Other benefits include reducing stress, improving self-esteem, and removing toxins through breathing and sweating.

In addition, aerobic exercises increase our strength and release endorphins in the brain – which in turn generates a pleasant feeling when we finish a class or routine. This also increases our body’s absorption of calcium – and as a result, strengthens our bones and joints- reduces cholesterol and blood pressure, and protects the heart.

Among aerobic exercises, we can find three kinds, according to their intensity: gentle, moderate, and intense. This depends on your heart rate as you do it. If you exceed 85 percent of your maximum “permitted” heart rate, this becomes an anaerobic exercise.

Some examples of aerobic exercise are running. dancing, boxing, swimming, cycling, doing a step or spinning class, skating, and skiing. Similarly, we can find CrossFit, Zumba, and several other popular team sports such as soccer, tennis, basketball, or volleyball.

three people in a dance class moving and having fun

Before you start an aerobic exercise class, it’s important you warm your muscles up. Afterwards, you should stretch. This avoids injury and reduces how much your muslces will ache after training.

What are anaerobic exercises?

Now, let’s talk about anaerobic exercises. These are simply high-intensity exercises that only last between four and 20 minutes.

When we do these, the body doesn’t need extra oxygen because the energy – largely – comes from force and muscular resistance, ATP, glucose, and phosphocreatine.

When we choose anaerobic exercises, our objective is to increase muscle mass or “define” the muscles. As an additional bonus, we enjoy some benefits that help prevent health problems -such as cardiovascular illnesses, arthritis, lower back pain, among others. Also, we become stronger, improve muscle density, increase our metabolism, tone our bodies, and improve our appearances.

Similar to aerobic exercises, in order to do anaerobic exercises, you need to warm up properly; every muscle that you’re going work. Likewise, it’s a good idea to stretch after you’ve finished in order to avoid pain.

We recommend you start with light weights and increase as you go over time. This way, your muscles will tone and become “defined”, but won’t get used to repeated stimuli.

Anaerobic exercises aren’t a good idea if you’re trying to lose weight since one of the most common effects is the opposite. By which we mean, you gain pounds. This is a consequence of building muscle mass.

young man training on a machine at the gym

An excellent exercise in this group is weight lifting or any other exercise that involves weight of some kind. This could be bars, dumbbells, machines, etc. Isometric exercises are also anaerobic. These require you to work with your own body weight, or tabatas. The latter includes 20-second intervals of exercise and 10 seconds of rest.

Choose the best kind of exercise for you

As we can see, the main differences between aerobic and anaerobic exercises are duration, intensity, and above all, energy spent.

In order to know which kind of exercise is best for your condition and objectives, we recommend you consult a physical activity specialist. The expert will know how to plan an adequate routine for you and guide you through each exercise you need to do. Let’s give it a go!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.