Aerobic vs Anaerobic Exercise

With so many different fitness modalities and choices you may find yourself wondering “what’s the best type of exercise for me?”


While the answer may not be so simple, you can ask yourself a few questions that may help guide you in the right direction: What are my fitness goals? Am I training for a specific event, do I want to alter my body composition, or do I just want to feel healthy? What types of physical activities do I personally enjoy?

Let’s start by breaking it down into two basic types of exercise: Aerobic and Anaerobic.


Aerobic refers to any activity that stimulates your heart rate and breathing to increase, but not so intense that you can’t sustain the activity for more than a few minutes. By definition, aerobic means “with oxygen”. This can also be referred to as cardiorespiratory conditioning, also known as “cardio”. A few examples include dancing, swimming, walking, hiking, climbing steps, and kick-boxing. However, all of these activities can be Anaerobic too, IF they are performed at a high enough intensity.


Anaerobic means “without oxygen”. This is the type of activity that causes us to get out of breath in just a few moments. Any short burst of exertion and high-intensity movement is considered an anaerobic exercise. Examples include sprinting, weight lifting, push-ups, or jumping. During short, intense exercise, our bodies demand more oxygen than is available, so it relies on energy that is stored in the muscles. This is key to the role it plays in any fitness program. Anaerobic exercise is not meant to burn off fat, you need oxygen for that; it’s main role is to build strong muscles.


The benefits of Aerobic exercise are vast, in fact, no area of exercise science has been more studied. Mountains of evidence prove that performing moderate-intensity cardio for 30-60 minutes (accumulated), five-seven days per week will significantly improve your health and fitness in countless ways:


  • Helps reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease and high blood pressure

  • Helps reduce risk of many cancers and improves treatment results

  • Used in clinical trials to treat depression

  • Helps prevent and treat diabetes

  • Can reduce obesity and aid in weight control

  • Can improve cognitive function


Let’s compare to the many benefits of Anaerobic exercise:


  • Burns more calories in less time (as compared to aerobic)

  • Builds strength and muscle mass

  • Increases metabolism (more calories burned at rest)

  • Improves cardiopulmonary health (heart and lung efficiency)

  • Increases VO2 Max (the bodies ability to utilize oxygen to feed muscles)

  • Helps to build a lean and toned body


In conclusion, there are huge benefits associated with both types of exercise. In your search for the “best exercise”, some days your body may crave a brisk hike, on others you may want to sweat buckets. Whatever you do, be consistent and safe. Select exercises that are appropriate for YOUR body, YOUR goals and most of all, what’s important to YOU.


If you find that you need more guidance and motivation, don’t hesitate to contact us. We welcome your questions and comments.