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The Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic

From the Community: Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Activity

Not sure what the difference between aerobic and anaerobic activity is? In our Get Fit For 2012 group, FitSugar reader meetcasey explains what each term means and why we should be doing both.

Aerobic exercise requires the body to utilize oxygen to create energy. With anaerobic exercise, the body creates energy without extra oxygen — your body relies on its natural chemicals to create energy.

Learn the benefits of each, after the break!

Benefits of aerobic activity

When you are engaged in aerobic activities (walking, running, swimming, canoeing), you breathe heavier and use more oxygen. When this happens, your heart beats faster, and your blood flow increases, which means the oxygen going to and from your muscles increases as well. Your capillaries are what bring the oxygen to your muscles and take away the waste (carbon dioxide, lactic acid), essentially “cleaning” your muscles. Also through this process, you help build up your immune system and rid your body of toxins, which will help you ward off illnesses.


Aerobic activity three to five times a week will help strengthen your heart and help it pump blood more efficiently and help it get to and from your muscles more efficiently and effectively. Aerobic exercise is a key component in losing weight and keeping it off and reducing heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes — just to name a few.

Your body also releases endorphins, which are a natural painkiller and "mood enhancer." The release of endorphins helps reduce anxiety and stress, helps you sleep better, and can also help ward off depression.

So get movin'!

Benefits of anaerobic activity

Anaerobic means "without oxygen," and strength training is the most effective method of anaerobic exercise. Loss of lean muscle mass can begin in your early 20s if you're not careful. When you lose lean muscle mass, your metabolism slows down, your strength weakens, and your "functional fitness" can decrease, which can lead to you getting hurt while engaging in everyday activities like taking the stairs. But guess what? You can also gain the muscle back! Introduce strength training. It helps rebuild that muscle mass, strengthen not only your muscles but also your bones, increase your metabolism, and lower your body fat. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism, which means the more calories you burn (when you are resting and when you’re working out!)

Strength training at least twice a week also helps prevent cardiovascular disease, obesity, arthritis, lower-back pain, and type 2 diabetes.

"Strength training" is often an intimidating term, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into "heavy lifting." Strength training can be lunges with five-pound weights, squats, push-ups, whatever! You can use weights or your body weight will work as well!

To good health!


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