Aerobic exercise versus anaerobic exercise has been one of the many great debates in the fitness world since the beginning of time. And there are many people that feel very strongly one way or the other. We’re going to take a look at each of these forms of exercise and determine for ourselves which one is better.
Aerobic exercise is essentially exercising in a way that your body is able to maintain an adequate oxygen supply to fuel your muscles. These exercises are not as intense, and are completed over longer periods of time. Think of long-distrance running, walking, recreational swimming, etc. Your body is able to keep up with the oxygen your muscles demand and doesn’t have to find fuel from another source. For years, this was the only form of exercise that anyone thought to do. Even the old aerobics tapes your parents kept in the basement involved aerobic exercise. It was the only real form of cardio until people started looking elsewhere for ways to lose weight faster.
Pros and Cons
The pros of aerobic exercise is that you are able to exercise for longer periods of time before becoming fatigued. For people who love to run long distances, like marathons and triathlons, compete in obstacle courses, etc., this is the exercise for you. It’s what you’ll be doing come race day so it’s how you train, for the most part, until that point. Aerobic exercises also work well to build your endurance level, which is necessary in any sport.
Many people enjoy aerobic exercises like walking because you can complete it over a period of time, at your own skill level and pace. However, running, especially over a long period of time, is very hard on your joints. Some would argue that aerobic exercises are not as effective because you are not working out as intensely when you do them, but they can be just as effective as anaerobic exercises over time.
Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, occurs with exercises that are higher in intensity and typically, shorter in duration. Think of the world of HIIT exercises or High Intensity Interval Training, or running sprints. This involves short bursts of high energy output to the point that your body cannot keep up with the oxygen demands and has to fuel your muscles some other way. The idea behind anaerobic workouts is that because your body has to use an alternate fuel source, it will burn fat faster to provide that energy.
Tons of people absolute love HIIT workouts because it is believed that you can burn more calories over a shorter period of time and in the world we live in today, no one seems to have time to workout. People also really like HIIT workouts because of the “after burn” effect. This occurs when your muscles run out of oxygen to meet their demand and they start to look for fuel elsewhere.
Your metabolism kicks into high gear to meet that demand and because anaerobic exercise puts your body in this condition but only lasts a short amount of time, your metabolism keeps going until it thinks you body is at a regular state again. The idea is to ramp up your metabolism so much so that it continues to burn calories for fuel long after you’re done with your exercise, and that is believed to make your burn fat faster.
Pros and Cons
Obviously I’ve just mentioned some of the pros to anaerobic exercise: it saves you time and it can burn fat faster because of ramping up your metabolism. Some people think that anaerobic exercise is more effective overall because it works on your cardio endurance, as well as your muscular strength. But once again, HIIT workouts can be very hard on your joints and some people, especially those who are older or not already in shape, will have a lot of difficulty with anaerobic exercises.
Because anaerobic exercise is essentially working out to the point of reducing oxygen to your muscles, they can fatigue quickly, which can affect your endurance. Also, some people may feel as thought they cannot breathe while performing exercises and it can be difficult to judge when this is appropriate and when it becomes a problem.
Which One is Better?
We’ve looked at some of the pros and cons for both aerobic and anaerobic exercise and quite honestly, as long as you’re putting in the time to exercise, it doesn’t really matter. Some would argue that anaerobic exercise is better for losing weight because of the intensity and “after burn” effect. But if you can’t do anaerobic exercise, then aerobic exercise is a great option. Besides, some exercise is better than no exercise at all.
I personally prefer aerobic exercise to anaerobic exercise because I can’t stand the feeling of not being able to breathe while I’m working out. I like to take my time, focus on what I’m doing, and really feel each muscle as I’m working it. If you would ask my husband though, he would say the exact opposite. He doesn’t feel like he’s getting a good workout unless he feels like he’s going to throw up after. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t like to get my heart rate up, but it takes a balance. A great cardio workout is perfect to add in especially when I’m short on time and it keeps me more physically balanced. Besides, you can’t beat the endorphin rush of a HIIT workout. It makes you feel amazing! But if you only ever train one way, how can you expect your body to perform well doing anything else?
Instead of worrying about getting both aerobic and anaerobic exercise mixed into your routine, focus on the exercises you enjoy. After all, if you don’t enjoy it at least a little bit, you won’t do it and then it becomes completely ineffective. It’s fine to stick to your favorites most of the time, but every once in a while, try something new or something completely different. If you normally like to bike long distances, try a HIIT workout at a gym. Or if you’re a gym junkie hooked on the HIIT world, get outside and take a long, easy jog. You’ll feel refreshed and may even find a new favorite activity you’ll want to mix into your routine more often.