The Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercises

March 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Anaerobic Exercises

Article by Edward Sample

Many people mistakenly believe that all vigorous forms of exercise are aerobic in nature. However, some forms of vigorous exercise are actually anaerobic, and have a very different effect on the body. If you’re just getting started on an exercise regimen, this information will help you sort out the difference between the two and tailor your workouts accordingly.

So exactly what is the definition of aerobic exercise? Aerobic means “with oxygen,” where anaerobic is “without oxygen.” No, that doesn’t entail holding your breath while exercising! Rather, it refers to cellular tissues producing energy without having to rely on oxygen availability. Alternatively, you may have guessed that aerobic exercise requires large supplies of oxygen to generate energy. The fundamental difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercises is that simple.

A more detailed definition is that during aerobic exercise, activity is so sustained that it requires large amounts of oxygen. The muscles utilize oxygen to burn fat and glucose to manufacture adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – the basic energy vehicle for all cells in the body. During the initial stages of aerobic exercise, glycogen is transformed into glucose. If glucose stores become depleted, fat is metabolized as fuel. It’s interesting to note that “runner’s high” occurs when muscles have exhausted their immediate glycogen stores and begin relying only on oxygen, which releases endorphins in the brain.

During anaerobic exercise, the muscles being used rely on energy-producing processes that don’t require large amounts of oxygen. Instead, the body metabolizes muscle glycogen to produce power. Glycogen is supplied by blood sugar, which is manufactured by the liver from dietary amino acids and carbohydrates–whole grain, of course! Anaerobic exercise is so fast and brief that it doesn’t have time to rely on oxygen, so glycogen is used.

Some people mistakenly believe that aerobic exercise makes you small and weak. However, it actually tones muscle throughout your body and burns fat. This will make you look good in your bathing suit–not to mention your birthday suit! The effects that aerobic activity has on your body are not merely cosmetic – there are numerous health bonuses, such as:

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