What’s the Difference Between Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Training?

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Sometimes the long list of words and phrases associated with exercise can be confusing. Anaerobic, strength training, weight training, aerobic, body weight training, cardio exercises, high intensity interval training are all forms of exercise that can have similar and different meanings. So, what’s the difference between aerobic and anaerobic training?

WebMD is a respected health and wellness website. They mention that there are some similarities and crossover qualities between these 2 forms of exercise. Individually however, they define aerobic and anaerobic training as the following:

Aerobic exercise – “Any activity that stimulates your heart rate and breathing to increase, but not so much that you can’t sustain the activity for more than a few minutes.” (The word aerobic literally means “with oxygen”.)

Anaerobic exercise – “The type of exercise where you get out of breath in just a few moments, like when you lift weights, when you sprint, or when you climb a long flight of stairs.” (The word aerobic means “without oxygen”.)

As you can see, the basic difference between these 2 popular forms of exercise centers around oxygen. Most of the cells in your body would rather draw their energy by using oxygen to fuel your metabolism. Aerobic activities (with oxygen) allow your muscle cells to repeatedly work without fatigue. This is why aerobic exercise can be performed for an extended period of time.

Anaerobic forms of exercise (without oxygen) force your cells to rely on other processes which do not require oxygen to power your muscle. This is what causes fatigue during anaerobic exercises rather quickly.

Some examples of aerobic exercise are swimming, biking, walking and dancing. However, these can quickly become anaerobic forms of exercise when they are extremely intense or strenuous. So the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercises sometimes just comes down to intensity.

Aerobic exercises are generally those which boost your heart rate and breathing, but can be sustained for an extended period of time. When you enjoy a Jazzercise or Zumba class, you can expect to be active for 30 to 60 minutes each session. This is a form of aerobic exercise.

Generally speaking, an aerobic activity pumps up your heart rate and the level at which you breathe, but not so much that you are pooped after just a couple of minutes. Anaerobic and aerobic exercises both provide excellent health benefits, like a stronger heart, fat burning properties, increased energy and an improved ability to deal with stress. Both can be a part of a smart exercise plan.

What is the Best Type of Exercise?

Trying to discover the best type of exercise is sort of like asking people what their favorite food is. You are going to get a lot of different answers. Depending on your goals and current fitness level, one type of exercise may be better than another. The best way to uncover what the best type of exercise is for your unique situation is to start with your goals in mind and work backwards.

Do you just need to lose 10 pounds quickly? Aerobic exercise, coupled with watching your caloric intake, will probably work best. Is your fitness goal to pack on 25 pounds of muscle? You are going to need to increase the amount of calories you eat, while focusing on strength training and lifting heavy weights.

The Best Workout for Your Body Type

As you can see by the examples above, the best type of exercise varies depending on the intended result. In recent years, a school of thought has developed that focuses on performing the proper exercises for your particular body shape. You have one of 3 basic body types, the ectomorph, mesomorph or endomorph.

An ectomorph is naturally skinny, with small joints and a long, thin limbs. A mesomorph is naturally athletic, with a large bone structure and large muscles. The endomorph has a soft, round body with thick arms and legs. The best type of exercise for an ectomorph involves a lot of strength training, and little aerobic training.

Ectomorphs tend to have exceptionally high metabolisms, so the extra calories burned by aerobic exercises are not desired. Endomorphs are just the opposite, usually possessing a low metabolism. The best type of exercise approach for this person will involve a lot of aerobic activity. Depending on your goals and your body type, your exercise plan can be very different from someone else’s.

Harness the Power of Google

In Google, or some other search engine, type “best exercise for ______”. Fill in the blank with your physical goal, whether that is weight loss, fat burning, muscle building, endurance, strength or some other result. You can alternately fill that blank space with a physical characteristic or trait you possess, such as “woman over 50” or “skinny man”.

Unfortunately, there is no one “best exercise” for everyone. Your fitness goals and physical abilities differ according to age, gender, your current level of fitness and several other factors. One thing that does remain a constant regarding exercise for just about anyone is consistency. Stay physically active on a regular basis, develop healthy nutrition habits, and you will come closer to realizing your fitness goals.

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