Aerobic Vs. Anaerobic Exercise: Which Is Better?

Nikhil Goswami

Aerobic and anaerobic exercises offer several health benefits and keep you physically fit. However, both exercises are quite different regarding the training sessions and intensity levels.

Here we have thoroughly explained the differences between aerobic vs. anaerobic exercise.

An Overview Of Aerobic & Anaerobic Exercise

  • Aerobic exercise uses oxygen gained from breathing, whereas anaerobic exercise uses stored fat energy for energy consumption.
  • An aerobic workout is a slow-paced process, whereas an anaerobic workout consists of powerful and fast-paced movements.
  • Both types of exercise are beneficial for your health. But, consult your doctor if you are already suffering from a serious health issue.

What Is Aerobic Exercise?

The word “aerobic” refers to “using oxygen.” Hence aerobic exercise is the physical activity in which your body muscles use oxygen from breathing to gain energy. The blood carries oxygen supply during breathing which the body muscles during aerobic activity.

Your muscles need more oxygen to progress in aerobic activity, thus quickening your breathing speed and heart rate. Consequently, your blood vessels will expand to increase the speed of blood flow. The increased blood flow will carry the required oxygen to the major muscle groups, including the legs, hips, and arms.

Regular exercise helps increase and sustain cardiovascular conditioning. The improved cardiovascular conditioning boosts your lung capacity and heart’s blood pumping ability. This improved cardiovascular system offers you many health benefits.

Aerobic exercises are generally performed for a sustained period in which your breathing and heart gradually increase. The main target is to sustain aerobic activity for at least half an hour or longer if you are a pro. During this period, you will repeat sets of the same activities.

Generally, people new to the fitness world start with aerobic exercise, which helps build muscular endurance. Later, after improving your tolerance level, you can increase the intensity level of the physical activity or switch to anaerobic exercises.

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Health Benefits Of Aerobic Exercise

Doing aerobic exercises or cardio regularly offers you many health benefits. Some of these include,

  • Better Cardiovascular Health

Aerobic exercises help strengthen your cardiovascular health. Aerobic exercise’s most significant functions for improving heart health include increased lipid metabolism, improved aerobic capacity, and enhanced oxygen supply across the body.

Moreover, comparatively vigorous aerobic exercise is better than mild exercise. A study published in The American Journal of Cardiology revealed that moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercises offer better benefits to your heart health than low-intensity exercises.

  • Reduced Blood Pressure

Vigorous aerobic exercise can help regulate your blood pressure. Your blood pressure indicates the smooth blood flow in your arteries or how much resistance is in its way. If your arteries are narrow, you will have high blood pressure as it will require higher force or pressure to pass through. By regularly doing aerobic or cardiovascular exercise, you can regulate your blood pressure.

  • Improved Sleep Quality

People who find it difficult to enjoy uninterrupted and peaceful sleep at night should try aerobic exercise. Cardiovascular exercises can improve sleep efficiency and reduce the symptoms of depression.

  • Reduction In Chronic Pain

Loss of physical activity and obesity are two major reasons for chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain. Consistent aerobic activity improves muscular function and flexibility and helps you lose weight. Hence, one can significantly decrease chronic pain by opting for healthy lifestyles and regular aerobic exercises.

  • Enhanced Insulin Sensitivity And Better Regulation Of Blood Sugar Level

Increased insulin sensitivity aids the body in controlling glucose metabolism. Contrarily poor insulin sensitivity can increase the blood sugar levels in your body.

Regular aerobic exercise increases insulin sensitivity. The higher the time and intensity of the physical activity, the more the duration of the insulin sensitivity in your body will be.

  • Decreased Stress And Depression

Aerobic exercise helps decrease stress and improve mood. Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine studied the effect of regular aerobic exercise (running on the treadmill) for 30 minutes for ten days on five men and seven women.

The results showed a significant improvement in the mood of patients suffering from depression after just ten days. Thus, you may start experiencing the positive effects of aerobic exercise within a short period.

  • Better Lung Capacity

Aerobic exercise is exceptionally important for your lung health. Well-organized aerobic exercise helps in the treatment of lung injuries and also aids in the therapy of various respiratory diseases.

Moreover, aerobic activity can also help asthma patients by decreasing the frequency of asthma attacks. A study published in Thorax (an international journal by BMJ) revealed that aerobic training could decrease inflammation and hypersensitivity in asthma patients.

However, it is preferable to consult your doctor before starting a new aerobic exercise training if you have asthma. The doctor may advise you on specific preventive measures to enjoy a healthy and helpful training session.

Risks Associated With Aerobic Exercise

Indeed, aerobic training offers many health benefits to everyone. Also, aerobic activity has no side effects if done under the proper guidance.

However, it is noteworthy that everybody has their tolerance level. Generally, people increase their tolerance level by regularly following an exercise program.

There are different levels of aerobic exercise, ranging from low to moderate to vigorous activity. If you have recently started aerobic exercise, it is best to start with low-intensity exercises. Though aerobic activity requires an intense workout for a prolonged period, you can start with as low as five minutes.

For instance, walk at a slow speed for five minutes, and then keep on increasing the time and speed until you start brisk walking for at least half an hour. Try to make aerobic activity a part of your lifestyle by gradually introducing high-intensity exercises. A gradual increase in the workout intensity will reduce the chances of any injury and help train your body for an intense workout.

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Furthermore, you should consult a doctor before starting any aerobic exercise if you are suffering from serious health conditions. Though aerobic exercise is beneficial for various health issues, high-intensity exercise may cause sudden stress on your body.

For instance, if you have recently suffered any cardiac event, such as a cardiac stroke, or are at risk of cardiovascular health issues. Then it is best to ask for your doctor’s advice on engaging in any exercise.

Different Types Of Aerobic Exercises

In general, aerobic activity is described as the repetitive rhythmic movements of the same activity that increase your heart rate and breathing. Therefore, aerobic exercise is called “cardio” for its increasing cardiovascular activity. The following are the most common aerobic exercises.

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming
  • Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Cycling
  • Jogging
  • Dancing like Zumba
  • Rowing
  • Stair climbing
  • Playing soccer
  • Elliptical training or using a treadmill

The intensity level of these aerobic exercises varies from medium to vigorous. For instance, swimming laps and brisk walking are moderate-level aerobic exercises, whereas cycling, Zumba, and jogging are intense-level exercises.

The fitness experts and researchers advise doing these aerobic exercises for about twenty minutes to an hour and repeating the sessions twice a week. These aerobic training sessions improve your body’s endurance, increase aerobic metabolism and offer immune support without exhaustion.

What Is Anaerobic Exercise?

Anaerobic means “without oxygen.” Hence, during anaerobic exercise, your body does not utilize oxygen to gain energy; instead, it utilizes the stored muscular energy. The main goal of anaerobic exercise is intense bursts of energy in a short time by putting in maximum effort. This high-intensity anaerobic workout’s short bursts of energy help suggest the best foods to lose fat & build muscle mass.

Considering the high intensity of anaerobic exercise, one cannot sustain it for long periods. Thus, during this high-intensity training, you repeat powerful and high-energy movements repeatedly for ten to fifteen seconds.

Health Benefits Of Anaerobic Exercise

Some of the most significant health benefits of anaerobic activity include the following:

  • Increased Physical Energy And Endurance

Regular anaerobic sessions can boost your physical energy. A study on baseball players revealed that the players who performed eight sets of twenty to thirty-second sprints observed about a fifteen percent increase in their performance in the season.

  • Enhanced Bone Strength

Anaerobic resistance training increases your bone density and powers up your bone strength. These training programs are highly beneficial for increasing bone and muscle mass. Moreover, regular anaerobic activities can help prevent osteoporosis.

  • Improved Lactate Threshold

Anaerobic exercises require more physical endurance and better fitness than aerobic exercises. In general, people move from aerobic to anaerobic activities. In doing so, your body goes through various physiological changes.

One of the main changes in the body during this transition is the increased blood lactate level. Hence, regular anaerobic exercise increases your body’s ability to tolerate higher lactic acid.

Thus, the more you exercise, the higher this lactic acid threshold level increases. This increased threshold increases your body’s tolerance towards more intense anaerobic exercises.

  • Decreased Depression And Improved Mood

Anaerobic exercises also help in decreasing the level of stress and depression, just like aerobic exercises. However, it is essential to retain consistency and regularity in your training sessions.

Risks Associated With Anaerobic Exercise

Anaerobic exercise requires an exceptionally high level of energy exertion from your body. Therefore, this high-intensity workout is best for people having high muscular endurance and are used to doing tough exercises.

For the same reason, anaerobic exercise is unsuitable for beginners in the fitness world. Therefore, anyone wishing to opt for anaerobic exercises must have a basic level of physical endurance before starting this intense exercise.

Additionally, it is essential to perform anaerobic exercises following the proper technique. Trying these intense exercises on your own can cause physical injury. Therefore, it is preferable to go to a professional fitness trainer, learn the technique and perform these anaerobic exercises under the trainer’s supervision.

The certified professional fitness expert will also create a personalized anaerobic program per your physical fitness level, primary goals, and medical history. And most importantly, you will remain safe from any unintended injury.

Furthermore, if you are suffering from serious health conditions, it is wise to consult your doctor before indulging in anaerobic sessions. The doctor will guide you about the preventive measures regarding anaerobic workouts.

Different Types of Anaerobic Exercises

The powerful and high-intensity moves perfectly describe the anaerobic exercises. Some of the most common anaerobic exercises are;

  • high-intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • Plyometrics
  • heavy weight lifting
  • sprinting during swimming, running, or cycling
  • Calisthenics, including jumps, squats, and box jumps

Which One Is Better For Me Between Anaerobic Vs. Aerobic Exercise?

Both aerobic and anaerobic exercises are beneficial for your health, fitness, and maintaining muscle mass. However, both types of exercises differ concerning the level of intensity, time efficiency, and energy-utilizing methods. So, which one is better for you comes down to your preferred intensity level and fitness goal.

Anaerobic exercises require more effort and energy but less time than aerobic exercises. These high-intensity workout sessions move at a fast pace. However, anaerobic sessions require at least a basic level of anaerobic activity and are not preferable for beginners. On the other hand, aerobic training sessions are best suited for beginners. If you get used to regular aerobic exercise, you can gradually pursue anaerobic exercise alongside a professional trainer.

High-intensity, short bursts, and vigorous exercises are more impactful than slow-paced exercises. So, if you are a beginner, start slow, but if your body can tolerate vigorous exercises, those are preferable.

Furthermore, anaerobic high-intensity exercises are the best option if you have a short time and wish to get fast results. These powerful exercises decrease your body fat and improve your muscle mass at a fast speed.

Else, you can alternate between aerobic and anaerobic exercise sessions based on your body’s comfort level.

Which Is The Best Between Aerobic And Anaerobic Exercise For Weight Loss?

Anaerobic exercise is the best exercise for weight loss between aerobic and anaerobic exercises. In comparison with anaerobic exercise, aerobic exercise is a steady-state workout. The general speed of aerobic exercises is low to moderate compared to high-intensity anaerobic exercises.

Undoubtedly, slow-paced aerobic exercises that use slow-twitch muscle fibers are great for boosting muscle endurance and heart health. However, these comparatively low-intensity cardio exercises are unsuitable for speedy fat-burning metabolism.

The anaerobic capacity of utilizing the stored fat or glycogen to gain energy is higher than that of an aerobic workout. An aerobic workout mainly uses the oxygen supply from the blood to gain energy, whereas the first target of an anaerobic workout is your stored fat.

Therefore, an anaerobic workout burns more fat in a specific time than an aerobic workout. Thus, you will need longer aerobic exercise sessions to burn the same amount of fat you can burn in a short time with anaerobic exercise.

Furthermore, the main course of action of anaerobic exercise is high-intensity interval training or HIIT. HIIT means you will perform fast and powerful workout sessions with regular recovery intervals. High-intensity interval training is the main reason that anaerobic exercises are more helpful in losing body fat than aerobic exercises.

Following are the benefits of HIIT in the reduction of body fat.

  • Fast Fat Burning Process

The fat-burning process of anaerobic exercises is more efficient and speedy than aerobic exercises. Indeed, the main goal of anyone working out to lose weight is to burn more calories.

And the anaerobic sessions help you achieve that goal more quickly than riding a bike or walking briskly.

  • Speedy Metabolism

Metabolic speed plays an essential role in the fat-burning process. The speedy your metabolic rate is, the faster your body will convert the stored fat into energy. These high-intensity anaerobic training sessions use your fast-twitch muscle fibers during exercises such as lifting weights, plyometrics, and sprinting.

These exercises strengthen your muscular mass. Strong and improved muscles will speed up the fat-burning metabolic process.

  • Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption- EPOC

After the impactful, fat-burning HIIT session, your body will need more oxygen to return to its normal steady state. This required oxygen is called EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.

Your body fulfills this oxygen requirement by burning more calories even after the end of the HIIT workout session. Thus, you will experience a faster reduction in your body weight.

Some of the most common HIIT exercises include sprints and circuit training. The circuit training is a whole session comprising multiple sets of different exercises. These exercises include bicycle crunch, burpees, jumping lunges, mountain climbers, squats, and pushups.

Is It Beneficial To Perform Aerobic And Anaerobic Exercises With Certain Health Conditions?

Indeed, your fitness level and health condition play an essential role in the workout’s type and intensity. Generally, there is no harm in doing aerobic exercises even when you have a specific serious health condition. The experts suggest that low-to-moderate level aerobic exercises may help in these conditions. These conditions include diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and chronic pain.

Similarly, anaerobic exercises may help treat certain health conditions, including coronary artery disease and diabetes.

To Sum Up: Are Aerobic Vs. Anaerobic Exercise Good Alternatives?

There is no denying the many health benefits of aerobic and anaerobic exercises. So, you can opt for any of these exercises and gain several advantages. The one best for you depends on your fitness level and required goals. It is best to alternate between the two, keep your workout sessions interesting, and improve your physical endurance.

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