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Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise

  • June 03, 2019

Exercise is an essential for health. While most are familiar with aerobic exercise, concept of anaerobic exercise is not known to many. Here is a small write up on aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines aerobic exercise as “any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously and is rhythmic in nature”. Anaerobic exercise is defined by ACSM as “intense physical activity of very short duration, fuelled by the energy sources within the contracting muscles and independent of the use of inhaled oxygen as an energy source.”

During aerobic exercise, oxygen is utilised to generate energy. Our body burns carbohydrates and fats with the use of oxygen. It moderately increases the heart rate and respiration, so heart muscles are also exercised strengthening the heart. Aerobic exercise can be done for long-time as there is sufficient energy available – like walking, jogging, riding a stationary bicycle, etc.

In anaerobic exercise, energy is created without using oxygen. Our body breaks down the carbohydrates from blood glucose or glucose stored in the muscles. Depending on the intensity of exercise, energy is available for 30 seconds to three minutes. This exercise improves muscle endurance and example activities are – sprinting, explosive jumping, uphill cycling, etc.

Both aerobic and anaerobic exercises are good, while former improves your fitness, latter provides you endurance. Most important thing is to do exercise at least for 30 min a day, five days a week.  

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1.  Wahid A, et al. Quantifying the Association Between Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016;5:pii: e002495.

2.  American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. USA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013.

What Is the Difference Between Aerobic & Anaerobic Exercise?