Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise

Aerobic ExerciseTo obtain optimum fitness and provide the most health benefits, an exercise program should include both aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercises.

Aerobic exercise, commonly called “cardio,” includes activities that require oxygen for energy. Typically, aerobic activities are of relatively low-intensity and longer duration. This type of exercise includes both low-impact activities, such as gardening, house-cleaning, and walking, as well as longer endurance activities like running, cycling, or elliptical training. The benefits of aerobic exercise include:

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise:

Losing weight
Whenever the body uses energy, it burns calories. When the number of calories burned to produce energy are greater than the calories taken in through food, weight loss will result.

Improving cardiovascular health and reducing the risk of heart diseases
Because aerobic activities force oxygen through the body, the size and number of blood vessels increases, and they become more efficient at transporting oxygen and waste products to and from muscle tissues. Aerobic exercise also improves the strength and ability of the heart to pump blood and increases the amount of HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood.

Increasing the level of available energy
The more often a person engages in aerobic exercise, the more accustomed the body gets to quickly and efficiently accessing available energy sources.

Relieving depression, stress, and anxiety and improving the quality of sleep
Aerobic exercise reduces the level of stress hormones and stimulates the production of endorphins, which naturally elevate mood and relieve pain. These changes in hormonal levels cause what is commonly known as the “runners high” and improve mental state on a general level. Engaging in aerobic activities also improves sleep, which in turn contributes to improved quality of life and a reduction in anxiety and stress.

Improving mental acuity
Aerobic exercise is sometimes referred to as “moving meditation.” The rhythmic, repetitive quality of the exercise can allow a person to think clearly and focus on mental tasks, reaching new insights and awareness. In contrast to aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise does not require oxygen for energy and cannot be sustained for long periods of time.

Anaerobic ExerciseAnaerobic activities must be quick and powerful. Examples of anaerobic exercise include weightlifting or high-intensity interval training. The benefits of anaerobic exercise include:

Developing and maintaining muscle mass, increasing bone mineral density, and reducing risk of osteoporosis
When muscles and bones are stressed, they receive microscopic tears and cracks. When these tears and cracks are repaired, the muscles and bones get bigger and stronger. This results in larger and stronger muscles and bones.

Improving resting metabolic rate
The body must burn calories to repair and rebuild muscles, tissues, and bones, thus burning more calories even when at rest.

Achieving greater power and speed
Anaerobic exercise results in strength gains that can assist a person with improved power and speed for quick energy bursts.

Preventing and rehabilitating musculoskeletal problems and managing chronic conditions
Anaerobic exercise can reduce the symptoms associated with many chronic conditions, such as back pain, arthritis, and diabetes.

In conclusion, there are numerous benefits to be gained from both aerobic and anaerobic activities, and no fitness program would be complete without including both types of exercise.

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