When it comes to fitness, there are two main categories of exercises: aerobic and anaerobic. The main difference lies in the way your body consumes oxygen while you’re working out and whether it needs to draw energy from other sources.
This can have a huge effect on the overall effect on your body. It doesn’t matter whether you’re exercising in a gym or enjoying a beautiful Dublin summer jog; distinguishing between aerobic and anaerobic isn’t about what type of sport you’re doing, but rather the way you do it.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros and cons of both in order to determine which is better for you.
Aerobic exercises, which translates to “with oxygen,” are workouts in which your body uses only oxygen to provide you with the energy you need to sustain movement for an extended amount of time. But aside from this textbook scientific explanation, an easier way to understand aerobic exercises is to think of them as workouts we can maintain at a steady, moderate intensity for about 20-90 minutes. This includes things like walking, biking, jogging, and swimming.
When performing aerobic exercises, your body maximises blood flow, which helps to strengthen your cardiovascular health and improve muscle endurance. They also pretty much guarantee that you’ll break a sweat without putting too much stress on your body. This is beneficial for athletes recovering from injury, easing into a new workout plan, or simply looking to conserve energy.
On the down side, aerobic workouts don’t burn as much fat over a period of time when compared with anaerobic exercises. Instead, you’ll likely have to work out for much longer (which could result in fatigue and diminished performance) to achieve the same results. This means that aerobic workouts can often be more time-consuming and likely a bit more daunting when you’re about to hit the gym.
Unlike aerobic exercises, anaerobic workouts focus on short, intense bursts of energy that can’t be sustained for a long time. While this happens, you force your muscles to work a lot harder, meaning oxygen is no longer sufficient as the only supply of energy.
Instead, the body must break down sugars to extract energy. Some examples of anaerobic exercises include sprinting, weight lifting, and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), all of which involve getting high intensity workouts done in rotating intervals with short rests in between.
When doing anaerobic exercises, you’re guaranteed to get a higher calorie burn because of the highly intense pace that your muscles are working. Better yet, you’ll experience a longer afterburn as your body aims to replace the oxygen it consumed, meaning you’ll continue to burn calories for hours after you finish working out.
Anaerobic exercises are also great for increasing muscle mass and metabolism — plus, they also take up less time and use that time more effectively while burning calories.
On the downside, anyone who’s done anaerobic exercises knows that they burn you out. Because you’re giving 100% to the workout, these sessions are a lot more physically demanding, which isn’t always what you need. On top of that, focusing heavily on anaerobic workouts can mean that you only build muscle mass and burn fat without boosting your cardio-fitness levels and endurance.
So now we come to the question: Which is better for you?
While both aerobic and anaerobic workouts are good for different reasons, anaerobic is the one to go for if you’re focusing on shedding fat and building a more toned or muscular body. On the other hand, aerobic exercises will surely help you get lean and achieve a higher endurance and increased levels of fitness.
When it comes to your workout regimen, picking between these type of exercises depends on your end goal and what you want to achieve with your body. If you’re not sure, opt for a combination of both and you’ll enjoy something like the best of both worlds.
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