Exercise should be an important part of everyone’s life. The benefits of exercising daily are plentiful and include healthy weight management, heart health, more energy, and increased muscle tone.

There are two different types of exercise, aerobic and anaerobic. Each one performs a different function and has its own set of goals. In order to perform effective workouts that meet your goals it is important to understand each of them and the effects they have on the body.

What is Aerobic Exercise?

Aerobic exercise, commonly known as, and referred to as cardio is a low intensity energy generating process of physical exercise.

The word “aerobic” means involving or requiring free oxygen, and necessitates the utilization of oxygen to fulfill energy requirements in the course of exercise.

Typically this form of exercise involves light to moderate or even vigorous activity that requires oxygen. In essence, cardio is any workout that increases heart rate and breathing, but, not to the point where you cannot keep going for more than a couple of minutes. While aerobic means “with oxygen,” conversely, anaerobic means “without oxygen.”

Benefits of an Aerobic Workout

There are plenty of benefits to engaging in regular aerobic exercise, in fact, experts recommend at least 20 minutes per day, 3 times per week.

Aerobic workouts support heart and lung health, and greatly contribute to maintaining a healthy weight. These types of workouts also burn unwanted body fat in weight loss efforts. Those who get cardio exercise regularly have a higher metabolism, and so they burn more calories throughout the day even when they are stationary.

Research has also shown that aerobic exercise reduces the risk of developing certain cancers. Physically active individuals reduce their risk of colon cancer by 30%-40% as compared to those who are inactive. In fact, research shows that the more active one is, the less their risk for this type of cancer, and 30-60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous intensity workouts are required to lower the risk.

There is also a lot of evidence that links regular aerobic activity to a reduction in breast cancer in women. Studies show that 75 to 150 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous exercise decreases the risk for this type of cancer in the female population.

Notably, studies show that risks are reduced as the exercise levels increase for both types of cancers.
And, it is also important to realize that getting regular aerobic exercise increases stamina, and energy levels that improve one’s quality of life in general.

Here are the most common examples of cardio/aerobic workouts:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Vigorous swimming
  • Aerobic classes, DVD workouts, step aerobics
  • Stair Steppers
  • Biking, this can either be stationary or on a bike trail. Both are equally good for you.
  • Jumping Rope
  • Hula Hoop
  • Hiking
  • Rowing Machines
  • Dancing
  • Kettlebell workouts
  • Spin Bikes
  • Tabata Workouts
  • Elliptical Trainers
  • Kickboxing

What is Anaerobic Exercise?

Aerobic exercise differs from anaerobic exercise by the duration and intensity of muscular contractions involved in each, and also by the way in which energy is produced within the muscle.

Anaerobic literally means “without air.” During short, intense exercise the body needs more oxygen than is available, and therefore it relies on the energy stored in muscles. This is why anaerobic workouts are not meant to burn fat, as opposed to aerobic varieties because oxygen is needed to meet that goal, but, it’s main goal is to build strong muscles.

Anaerobic exercise is an activity that results in becoming out of breath in just a few minutes, such as, seen in strength training and short distance running or sprinting. Also, another good example of anaerobic activity is when you climb a long flight of stairs and become out of breath.

Anaerobic exercise is so intense, and strenuous that it can only be sustained in short spurts, as opposed to aerobic which is low to moderate in intensity and can be sustained for longer periods of time.

Examples of anaerobic exercise:

  • Strength training with weights
  • Muscle building
  • Sprinting and short distance running
  • Any very intense workout

Bottom Line

Aerobic or cardio workouts, including all the cardio machines at the gym, walking, running, and dancing can easily become anaerobic when they are performed at a high enough intensity level. The bottom line is that it is the intensity at which any workout is performed that will determine whether it is aerobic or anaerobic.

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