Anaerobic versus aerobic exercise programs

There are two types of exercise: Anaerobic and Aerobic. The word anaerobic refers to exercise without air or oxygen. Anaerobic exercise involves using isolated muscles at high intensity and a high rate of energy for a short duration. Anaerobic exercise is less stressful on your joints because movement is more intense over a short time span.

Aerobic exercise is also referred to as cardiovascular exercise. It involves using oxygen for low intensity exercise over a period of time, turning fat into fuel. It is more stressful on the joints than anaerobic exercise because movement is repetitive over a longer time span. A balanced fitness program includes both aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

Anaerobic Exercise

Anaerobic exercise is sometimes referred to as non-aerobic exercise or strength and is typified by weight training. It includes weight lifting, sprints, throwing or any rapid burst of hard exercise.

Anaerobic exercise uses the phosphagen system of respiration, which utilizes ATP, the chemical required by muscles to contract. The body can sustain a maximum effort for only about 10 seconds before the ATP is depleted and lactic acid is produced.

High intensity exercises of longer duration utilize glycogen in the muscles as their energy source and form lactic acid as a waste product. With training, exercises can be done at about 90 per cent efficiency for a maximum of two or three minutes. After this, the muscles become fatigued through the build up of lactic acid. The body must burn this up before more anaerobic exercise can be done.

Aerobic Exercise

Major Kenneth Cooper of the US Air Force coined the phrase aerobic exercise. American astronauts developed it in the 1960s for use during space travel. In the 1990s, low impact aerobics was introduced in health clubs – a great way to burn calories and improve body shape.

Aerobic exercise enhances the cardiovascular system, improving the flow of oxygen throughout the body. As oxygen-rich red blood cells circulate through the body, the muscles are able to use the oxygen to breakdown glucose and convert it into energy. Any activity that raises the heart rate and keeps it up for an extended period of time will improve aerobic fitness, these activities may include:

  • brisk walking
  • jogging
  • running
  • swimming
  • cross-country skiing
  • dancing
  • cycling
  • paddling

Even walking the dog daily is a good example of an aerobic exercise. Whatever form it takes, aerobic exercise has the ability to improve your mood and decrease your risk of getting diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

To be effective, it should elevate the heart rate to between 60 and 80% of its maximum potential. The maximum suggested heart rate for men is 220 minus their age. For women it is 225 minus their age.

Ideally, aerobic exercise should involve 20-60 minutes of continuous activity per day for a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 days a week. Aerobic exercise is suggested for all people, no matter their age or health history. It is important when beginning though, to exercise gently and build up strength gradually. Doing too much exercise too soon can cause problems. Of course, people with medical conditions should consult a physician before starting any exercise program.

Comparing the two

When comparing anaerobic and aerobic exercise, it is important to remember that an exercise routine that incorporates both is ideal. Building muscle through anaerobic exercise has health benefits that are not reached simply through running for long periods of time.

The inclusion of weight-bearing exercise (anaerobic exercise) is considered good for strengthening the bones and helping to combat bone weakness in old age – aerobic exercise, through its repetitive nature can harm bones and joints.

This example shows how important a balanced exercise routine can be. Coupled with a healthy eating plan and a healthy lifestyle, you will be well on your way to self-confidence and a great body.

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