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Anaerobic Exercise and Aerobic Exercise: What Is The Difference?

Updated on September 4, 2011

What are the main differences between anaerobic exercises and aerobic exercises? This article will give examples of both anaerobic and aerobic exercises. While both forms can help you lead a healthier lifestyle, understanding the differences is important based on your goals. Do you want larger muscles? Do you want muscles that are not as strong or big, but last longer?

Aerobic Exercises

This form of exercise is low intensity, but lasts for long periods of time. Walking or jogging is a good example of an aerobic exercise. Other forms include using a treadmill (brisk walk), jump roping, biking, stationary biking, and swimming. Even mowing your grass, raking leaves, or shoveling snow is a form of aerobic exercise, but it is more mild. Marathon runners need good aerobic conditioning.

Aerobic exercises help build endurance, muscular endurance, and improve cardiovascular health. Jogging can build up leg muscles, but it mainly focuses on increasing the endurance of the legs, rather than building pure muscle mass or strength.

Think of aerobic exercise as a way to increase stamina and endurance. It helps improve heart and lung health. Aerobic conditioning will help your body have more energy for longer periods of time, but only on a low intensity level.

Anaerobic Exercises

This form is the opposite of aerobic. It is physical activity at "high intensity levels", for a short period of time. Athletes use anaerobic exercises to promote muscle mass, speed, power, and strength. Athletes such as football players need to good anaerobic conditioning because they need a lot of power output, but only for a short period of time. The same goes for sprinters, they need a lot of speed and power, but only for short bursts.

Examples of anaerobic exercises include bench press, squats, lunges, shoulder press, deadlifts, barbell curls etc. These exercises promote strength and muscle when done at high intensity rep ranges (3-12).

It is possible to train with weights and get an aerobic workout, but only if one trains with really light weights in much higher rep ranges 20+.

Which form is better?

Neither form is better, it depends on the goals of the individual. If he or she wants to get bigger muscles, stronger muscles, and be more explosive, then anaerobic is the form that needs to be practiced. If the individual just wants to gain more endurance and better cardiovascular health, then aerobics will be better.

Technically, a person should do both of these, but focus on one more than the other, depending on their goals.


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