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Aerobic vs. anaerobic exercise and what you need to know

If you thought that all exercise was the same, think again! Few people understand that there are two main ways to exercise known as aerobic and anaerobic. Learning the differences between aerobic and anaerobic exercises can help you find the workout that fulfills your fitness goals. So, take a healthy look at what is aerobic exercise and what is anaerobic exercise, along with the benefits of both, to find the workout that works out for you.

Working out: The two types of exercise

Exercise isn’t a one-size-fits-all activity, there’s more than one way to work out. The two main kinds of workouts are aerobic and anaerobic. When it comes to understanding what is aerobic exercise and what is anaerobic exercise, their definitions are in their distinctions. Two of the biggest differences between aerobic and anaerobic exercises are the intensity of the exercise and how long your workout lasts.

So, what is aerobic exercise? At the heart of aerobic exercise is how good it is for your heart. Aerobic exercises are often known as “cardio,” which is short for cardiovascular, and they’re any type of low-intensity exercise that increases your heart rate and breathing in a way that’s able to be maintained for a longer amount of time.

But, if lengthy workouts you aren’t your first choice, then anaerobic exercises may be your perfect fit. These are performed at such a high intensity that they can only be sustained for a short amount of time. These workouts leave you breathless in mere minutes, which leads to faster and shorter workouts.

Another one of the differences between aerobic and anaerobic exercises is how they improve your overall fitness. Aerobic exercise is good for improving your cardiovascular endurance, while anaerobic exercises are ideal for building muscle strength.

Exercise your options for activities

Whether you’re looking for an aerobic or anaerobic workout, you have a lot of flexibility in what you choose to do. There are so many different activities considered aerobic or anaerobic exercises that it’s easy to find a workout that fits your goals and preferences.

Any activity that gets your heart pumping and keeps it that way is considered aerobic exercise. And luckily, many of these feel much more like fun than fitness, including:

  • Brisk walking
  • Riding a bicycle
  • Swimming
  • Jogging or running
  • Hiking
  • Tennis
  • Dancing
  • Cardio kickboxing
  • Gardening

Yet, it’s anaerobic activities that help you build muscle. These fast, high-intensity exercises include:

  • Weightlifting
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • Jumping rope
  • Sprinting
  • Pushups
  • Pull-ups
  • Squats
  • Circuit training

How each workout impacts your health

While any kind of exercise is good for you, one of the key differences between aerobic and anaerobic exercises is that they’re good for different things. When you do aerobic exercises on a regular basis, it can help strengthen your heart rate, increase your stamina, boost your energy, lower your risk of many conditions like heart disease and stroke, burn a lot of fat and calories, help you lose weight, reduce stress, and perk up your mood. Meanwhile, the benefits of what is anaerobic exercise range from building your muscles and strengthening your bones to brightening your mood and helping you maintain lean muscle mass as you age.

Healthy advice to follow

No matter which way you choose to exercise, you’ll be more likely to stick with your regimen and your goals if you keep your workouts simple, convenient, realistic, and enjoyable. If you decide to put your heart into aerobic exercise, be sure to start slowly and build up to a comfortable rate. Strive to fit in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise over the course of a week.

If you think that anaerobic exercise is more your speed, be aware that this is a very challenging way to work out and may not be the best for beginners. If you’re new to exercise, start with some kind of aerobic activity. Over time as your fitness level improves, you can work up to an anaerobic workout two to three times a week. Just be sure to take off one or two days in between to let your body fully recover.

Just what the doctor ordered

Before beginning any kind of exercise regimen, speak to your SignatureMD-affiliated doctor to determine which kind of fitness program is the right fit for you based on your health, your needs, and your goals.

However you choose to exercise, simply working in regular workouts can keep you moving toward your fitness goals.