Training women doing aerobics

Published on March 31st, 2013 | by Joe Starks


Fitness Jargonbuster: Aerobic and Anaerobic

Aerobic exercise is becoming increasingly popular in our days due to the climbing obesity rates and the lack of fitness in our lives. Most weight loss programs will praise its benefits to the heavens, while regular gym-rats will swear by anaerobic exercise instead. Many believe it is a battle of endurance versus strength, of the marathon runner versus the weight-lifter. But what really IS aerobic/anaerobic exercise? Is there a clear cut line between the two? What’s best for you from the two? Let’s answer these questions in the most scientifically correct way possible.

Aerobic Exercise

An exercise can be called aerobic when for the most part of it aerobic metabolism is used to fuel the muscles. Aerobic metabolism refers to the use of oxygen in the muscles to create energy. When we exercise, the glycogen stored in our muscles is released and turned into glucose. This glucose will enter the “circle of Krebs”, which is a series of chemical reactions within the body that create pyruvate. Pyruvate then reacts with oxygen from the bloodstream and creates carbon dioxide (the stuff we need to exhale), water and energy.

So simply put, oxygen is breathed in, goes to the muscles via the bloodstream and there it becomes energy. We exhale the excess carbon dioxide created and sweat/urinate the excess water. If you are exercising and your muscles use mostly oxygen like this, then you are doing an aerobic exercise.

Anaerobic exercise

Now if you work out your muscles so hard that the body has no time to bring oxygen to them for burning, then your body will create lactate from pyruvate through the anaerobic metabolism. If you do this type of stressful high intensity work out for long lactate will build up in your muscles causing pain. If you overdo it and a lot of lactate gathers in your muscle tissue you might even feel nauseous and vomit. This is why anaerobic exercise last only for a very short time and is usually done in high intensity.

What are the benefits and side effects of aerobic exercise?

There are plenty of benefits to be had from doing aerobic exercise at least thrice a week for a minimum of twenty minutes.

Some of the most notable benefits of aerobics are:

  • It is the best exercise to burn fat DURING the session. The long fitness sessions allow fat to move from the body’s fat stores and to be used aside from glycogen as a fuel source for the muscle. So doing lots of aerobics can benefit your weight loss.
  • You improve your cardiovascular system, meaning your heart and blood vessels. People who do regular aerobic exercise are less at risk for heart attack and hypertension.
  • You prevent type 2 diabetes and can treat it by doing regular exercise. One of the major reasons people get type 2 diabetes is excess weight and bad eating habits. Aerobic exercise is excellent for weight loss especially for the very heavy.
  • You strengthen the muscles that help you breathe, improving respiration overall. Simply put, you will get “out of breath” less and can do more taxing exercises without wheezing for air.
  • Increased number of red blood cells is found in people who do lots of aerobic exercises. This happens because the body needs more red blood cells to get all that oxygen to the muscle.

Now to the downsides:

  • Aerobic exercise alone will not increase your lean muscle mass and thus your metabolism when resting won’t rise. Excessive aerobic exercise might also eat up some of your muscle mass for energy.
  • Injuries are common if you overuse the same muscles too often without resting.
  • You only lose fat if you do aerobic exercises consistently.

What are the benefits and side effects of anaerobic exercise?

Among the benefits are:

  • Increased muscle mass, which also means a higher metabolism.
  • High intensity exercises cause you to burn more fat while resting.
  • You become stronger.

The downsides are:

  • Discomfort after exercise due to built up lactate in your muscles.
  • Injuries if the exercise is done with bad form.
  • They don’t burn a lot of fat during the exercise since the body has no time to do so.

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