When it comes to exercise, most people think of popular cardio activities like running, swimming or cycling. Although each of these are great ways to get your heart rate up, strengthen your muscles, and maintain a healthy weight, they only represent one type of exercise.
Anaerobic exercise represents another. “Anaerobic exercise and aerobic exercise are two basic types of exercise, each with different characteristics and effects on the body,” says Austin “Ozzie” Guntang, licensed psychotherapist. The Pearl of the Pacific of La Jolla and director of the San Diego Marathon Clinic.
Anaerobic exercise, explained
A key difference is that anaerobic exercise is more intense but shorter in duration than aerobic exercise. Both exercises use oxygen in a different way. “Anaerobic literally means ‘without air’ and aerobic means ‘with air,'” he says. David HerzbergPhysical therapist and started a physical therapy and sports performance center in Phoenix. He explains that anaerobic activity is so named because it is a type of “fast and furious exercise” in which the body cannot quickly produce enough oxygen and energy to support the activity.
Because of this, instead of turning to oxygen, the body taps into a different energy source and breaks down glucose stores.
Another key difference between the two is that one is about endurance training, the other is about strength training. “Aerobic exercises generally improve endurance and cardiovascular health, while anaerobic exercises are better for building strength, muscle and power,” explains Guntang.
How does anaerobic exercise benefit the body?
Along with strengthening the glutes and strengthening the muscles, he says, exercise improves resistance to fatigue by increasing lactic acid production. Lactic acid is a chemical that helps improve energy levels, glucose production, and immune health through molecular signaling, per Cleveland Clinic.
Other benefits of anaerobic exercise include improved athletic performance, blood sugar control, improved mental health, and better cardiovascular health. “While we typically associate heart health with aerobic activity, anaerobic exercise can contribute to cardiovascular health by improving blood pressure, lowering bad cholesterol and increasing heart function,” says Guntang.
Herzberg says that anaerobic exercise improves bone strength and stiffness, “thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis.”
One of the most sought-after benefits of anaerobic exercise is that it helps keep unwanted pounds off. “Anaerobic exercise can increase your resting metabolism—the rate at which your body burns calories while you’re at rest,” says Guntang. “Increasing muscle mass means that the body burns more calories, even when inactive, which helps to control weight.”
Details: What is a healthy resting heart rate? Experts explain why it is important.
What are examples of anaerobic exercise?
Common examples of anaerobic exercise include weightlifting, sprinting, powerlifting, medicine ball dips, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Guntang recommends bodyweight and resistance training exercises. “Exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and burpees are effective anaerobic exercises,” he says. “And they don’t require any equipment and can be done anywhere, which makes them very accessible.”
Ben Fung, a clinical physical therapist and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association, recommends many of the same exercises for anaerobic benefits, but good results can also be achieved with cardio exercise. “US Department of Health and Human Services Exercise guidelines (Ya) Adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and at least two days of muscle strengthening per week. [anaerobic] He explains that movements, movements, range of motion, loads, repetitions, intensities and positions are a good way to switch between both types of exercise. Train, strengthen, stretch and relax,” he says.
Guntang recommends keeping up with regular cardio as well, but adds, “Incorporating anaerobic exercises into your current exercise routine provides a balanced approach to physical health and well-being.”
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