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Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise

Aerobic and anaerobic exercises are two different types of physical activity that varies mainly in their energy consumption and duration. 

Aerobic exercise, like swimming or running engages constant rhythmic movements that boost the body’s need for oxygen. Aerobic type of exercise is typically conducted over a period of time and mainly relies on aerobic metabolism to produce energy, utilizing oxygen to break down carbohydrates and fats. It helps with the cardiovascular health, endurance, and body fitness level. Anaerobic exercise on the other hand such as weightlifting or sprinting, has short bursts of intense exercise that surpass the body  oxygen supply. In this case, anaerobic metabolism starts to kick in, leading to energy without the need for oxygen by reducing stored glycogen. These activities are of a shorter duration but lead  to muscle strength, power, and endurance. Therefore the main difference between the two are  in the energy systems used and the duration and intensity of the exercise.

In simple terms, Aerobic exercises use oxygen and are recommended to help the heart and blood vessels. Anaerobic exercises do not use oxygen but instead use glucose from the muscles and helps to build muscle strength.

What is Aerobic exercise?


Aerobic exercise is the type of exercise where your heart rate increases and oxygen is used during the process.


Aerobic exercise is recommended as a way so help improve your health and reduce the odds of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. You should check always with your doctor first to see if aerobic exercise can safely help you. 


This type of exercise helps to strengthen the heart and blood vessels of the body. The exercise is sustained, and more gentle than anaerobic exercise; and it can be slowly increased in duration, making injuries less likely.


There are some disadvantages to aerobic exercise if you overdo it. You can end up with muscle spasms, sprains, and strains if you are not careful. Injuries are more likely if you are playing certain aerobic sports. Sports where there is repetitive activity can cause problems for joints that are overused. For instance, you can develop tennis elbow from playing too much tennis.


Some examples of aerobic exercise include riding a bicycle, swimming, walking, running, hiking, skiing and playing sports like basketball or hockey.

What is Anaerobic exercise?


Anaerobic exercise occurs without oxygen being used and instead uses glycogen converted into glucose. 


Anaerobic exercises focus on building muscle and bone strength. It can also help to preserve and build strong and dense bones.


These types of exercise increase metabolism and build stronger and denser bones. It also helps protect joints and build muscle mass. These exercises occur as short bursts of vigorous activity, and are often quicker to do than aerobic activities.


The drawback of anaerobic exercise is that it isn’t very helpful for the heart and doesn’t help to decrease high blood pressure. You also may injure yourself if you are not careful when doing some of these exercises. It is best to join a gym and get professional advice on how to use the equipment and how to do the exercises safely so as to avoid hurting yourself. The risk of injuries is higher with anaerobic exercises than aerobic exercises.


Some examples of anaerobic exercises include doing squats or lunges, using resistance bands, doing push-ups, completing high intensity interval training (HIIT), and lifting weights.

Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic exercise?


Aerobic exercise is exercise where oxygen is used, and it helps the heart and cardiovascular system in general. Anaerobic exercise is exercise where glucose from muscle glycogen is used to provide energy and build strength.


Oxygen is present in aerobic exercise. Oxygen is absent in anaerobic exercise.

Duration and intensity

Aerobic exercise includes sustained exercise that lasts a long time. Anaerobic exercises are short bursts of activity.


Aerobic exercise is used to improve cardiovascular health. Anaerobic exercise is used to build muscle mass, bone mass, and increase strength.


A benefit of aerobic exercise is it helps the heart and blood vessels, and helps your overall fitness. A benefit of anaerobic exercise is it helps build strength. Anaerobic exercise is a great way to improve strength, help build muscle mass, and increase bone strength and density.


Disadvantages of aerobic exercise include the chance that you could end up with sprains and strains and repetitive injuries. Disadvantages of anaerobic exercise is that it is not that helpful for the heart and there is a high risk of injury if you are not careful.

Table comparing Aerobic and Anaerobic exercise

Summary of Aerobic Vs. Anaerobic exercise

  • Aerobic and anaerobic exercises can both be helpful in keeping your body fit and healthy.
  • Aerobic exercises use oxygen while anaerobic exercises rely on glucose from glycogen.
  • There are some disadvantages to both types of exercise and you should consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program.


Is push-ups aerobic or anaerobic?

Push-ups are a form of anaerobic exercise. 

Is jogging aerobic or anaerobic?

Jogging is actually considered aerobic exercise.

Is weightlifting aerobic or anaerobic?

Weightlifting is a type of anaerobic exercise.

What are 5 examples anaerobic?

Five examples of anaerobic exercise include doing squats, push-ups, lunges, resistance-band exercises, and lifting weights.

Is squats aerobic or anaerobic?

Squats are an anaerobic exercise.

Is Jumping Jacks aerobic or anaerobic?

This is a type of anaerobic exercise as are all types of jumping exercises.

What are 5 differences between aerobic and anaerobic?

Aerobic exercises use oxygen in the process and the exercises are of longer duration and tend to be sustained, gentle, and rhythmic in nature. Anaerobic exercises don’t use oxygen but rather depend on the breakdown of glycogen to glucose; these exercises are of short duration, intense, and do not necessarily have any rhythmic component.

Is it good to run anaerobic?

Anaerobic running can be helpful for increasing speed but is not sustainable for a marathon. 

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References :

[0]Franklin, Barry A., and Scott Billecke. "Putting the benefits and risks of aerobic exercise in perspective." Current sports medicine reports 11.4 (2012): 201-208.

[1]WebMD. “What are aerobic exercises?” WebMD, 2023, https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/what-are-aerobic-exercises

[2]WebMD. “What is anaerobic exercise?” WebMD, 2023, https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/what-is-anaerobic-exercise

[3]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MAEJPFGsM7c-people-at-the-gym-stretching-in-an-aerobics-class/

[4]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADF7uBSRj0-anaerobic-exercise/

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