Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise: Understanding the Differences


Learning the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise can help you get the most out of your fitness goals. Matching your goals to the type of exercise that will help you reach them is key. Understanding the benefits of each and utilizing these types of exercises will not only improve your knowledge but also your body. Learn the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise below:

Aerobic Exercise

Photo of a runner stretching.Fitness that is considered aerobic is determined by the oxygen circulating in your cardiovascular system. explains, “During aerobic exercise, there is sufficient oxygen intake needed to sustain the current level of activity without using additional energy from another energy source. [Whereas], anaerobic exercise, oxygen consumption is not sufficient to supply the energy demands being placed on your muscles. Therefore, your muscles begin to break down sugars, resulting in higher lactic acid production.” In layman’s terms, aerobic exercises are the ones that get your heart pumping and speed up your breathing.

Examples: Cross-country skiing, jogging, or swimming.

Benefits: According to, aerobic exercise helps you lose weight and burn fat, improves your mood, strengthens the heart and lungs and reduces your risk of diabetes.


Anaerobic Exercise

Photo of a woman strength training.To contrast, anaerobic is the kind of exercise sometimes referred to as “resistance training.” It is when you subject your muscles to work against above-average resistance to strengthen them. elaborates, “Oxygen is not present with anaerobic exercise. When we exercise anaerobically glycogen is used as fuel. Once all the glycogen has been depleted (usually in about two hours) you can expect to hit the proverbial wall. Endurance athletes avoid this performance buster with carbo loading before exercise (which when converted to sugar gives more energy) and supplements during exercise to sustain energy.”

Examples: weightlifting, sprinting, or yoga.

Benefits: builds strength, improves sports performance, builds muscle tone, and burns fat. Consider your fitness goals. If you are looking to lose weight, more aerobic exercises will help you achieve weight loss. If you are trying to tone muscles, anaerobic exercises are the way to go. In the end, the best fitness regiments are the ones that include both types of exercise, helping your cardiovascular system to stay strong and your body to look fit.

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