Aerobic Exercise Vs Anaerobic

Understanding aerobic exercise

What is aerobic exercise?

Aerobic translates to ‘oxygen’. Exercise of low to high intensity that predominantly relies on the aerobic energy-generating mechanism, is referred to as aerobic exercise (also known as endurance activities, cardio, or cardio-respiratory exercise).1 While engaging in aerobic activity, your breathing and heart rate will rise, hence, your heart, lungs, and circulatory system are kept in good condition through aerobic exercise.2

Repeating sets of moderate to vigorous-intensity exercises over a long period of time is what constitutes aerobic exercise.1 Examples of these moderate exercises are as follows:

Examples of vigorous exercises are as follows:

Benefits from aerobic exercise:

Aerobic exercise has many benefits, 10 benefits of aerobic exercise include:3

  • Increases cardiovascular fitness. Reduces the danger of heart disease. Lowers high blood pressure. Increases "good" cholesterol (HDL) levels. Aids in better blood sugar regulation. Helps with weight loss and/or weight management. Enhances lung performance. Lowers heart rate at rest. Improves sleep boost in mood

Understanding Anaerobic Exercise

What is  anaerobic exercise

Exercise that is anaerobic, or "without oxygen" causes the body to break down glucose without the need of oxygen. This implies that anaerobic exercise is more intense but less prolonged than aerobic exercise.4 Anaerobically performed workouts are brief, swift, high-intensity and don't require your body to utilise oxygen as it would during cardio (or aerobic) activities. Instead, during anaerobic exercises, your muscles use the glucose that is already there as a source of energy.5

You often repeat anaerobic exercises for 10 to 15 seconds before switching to another kind of exercise. Depending on your physical capabilities, it is simple to perform aerobic activities for longer periods of time.5

There are different type of anaerobic workouts, which are as follow:

  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • Weightlifting and strength training that push your body Jump squats, box jumps, and plyometric exercises are callisthenics

Finding a competent personal trainer to assist you in creating a regimen and learning good form is beneficial but not always crucial. Anaerobic exercises require proper technique and form when performing. If practised inappropriately you may negatively impact your body.

Benefits you can get in anaerobic exercise

Anaerobic exercises have many benefits, few of which are as follow:

  • Increases bone density and strength: strength training is an anaerobic activity that helps strengthen and enhance bone density, lowering the risk of osteoporosis
  • Assists with maintaining weight
  • Increases lactic threshold, metabolism, and power: anaerobic exercise increases metabolism while preserving and gaining lean muscle. The more lean muscle mass a person has, the more calories they will burn during their subsequent workout. High-intensity exercise may also enhance your ability to burn calories during resting rates
  • Decreases illness risk: body weight exercises like squats and push-ups, which increase strength and bone density, can lower the risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease
  • Safeguards joints: the joints are better protected, meaning they have higher protection against damage, through increasing muscular strength
  • Increases energy: the body's capacity to store glycogen is increased by regular anaerobic exercise, giving you more energy for physical activities. This could enhance your athletic prowess

Which exercise is better for fat loss?

The body needs oxygen to be able to use fat as fuel. Since aerobic activity generates energy using oxygen, it uses both glucose and fat as fuel. Conversely, anaerobic activity can only use glucose as fuel.6 The muscles can utilise glucose when the aerobic system is temporarily exhausted in order to move quickly and for brief periods of time.

There is a brief deficit of oxygen getting delivered to your working muscles when you start an intense workout. This means that glycolysis, a metabolic process that uses glucose as fuel, must be used to power anaerobic activity. During prolonged, high-intensity exercise without oxygen, glycolysis takes place in muscle cells, quickly releasing energy. Your muscles get extremely fatigued following the energy burst because of the production of lactic acid that is also a result of this process.

Your body will  become better able to withstand and eliminate lactic acid if you consistently engage in anaerobic activity. You'll therefore fatigue less quickly.6 Hence, it can be stated that aerobic exercises are best suited for weight loss and anaerobic exercises are more suitable for weight management.


Aerobic workouts help people increase their oxygen intake, which in turn helps them utilise different energy sources in their body, for example fat and protein. Since aerobic exercises use energy stored in the body and increase your oxygen intake, these workouts increase your stamina and help you build up endurance. Aerobic training is performed in combination of light to moderate workouts, over a long period of time, which might range from 60-90  minutes in one session. These exercises help you lose weight and improve the health of your heart and lungs. Whereas anaerobic workouts are high intensity workouts, that give you a boost of energy, by utilising fuel stored in your muscles, in absence of oxygen. During this workout a by-product ‘lactic acid’ is produced, which causes temporary muscle fatigue. Due to the nature of the workout anaerobic workouts cannot be performed over a long duration. They are usually performed in sets of 10-15 seconds. Anaerobic exercises help to build muscle and increase metabolism which  helps maintain weight. Anaerobic exercises are power exercises that help to build body strength and bone density.

Both anaerobic and aerobic exercises should be done in combination to one another to get optimum results. Aerobic will help you lose weight, whereas anaerobic will help with gaining muscle structure. The CDC advises at least two days of strength training each week along with 150 minutes on average of moderate activity (or anaerobic exercise).This equates to roughly 15 minutes of strong anaerobic activity or 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity spread throughout 5 days per week, plus 2 days of strength training.5

Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise should be practised after consulting  a doctor if you have any cardiac conditions, back problems or if you suffer from prolonged injuries, such as ligament tear etc.


  1. Plowman S, Smith D. Exercise Physiology for Health, Fitness, and Performance. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2007. 636 p.
  2. Chertoff J. Aerobic Exercise Examples: At Home, at the Gym, and More [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2022 Nov 22]. Available from:
  3. Aerobic Exercise [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2022 Nov 24]. Available from:
  4. Anaerobic [Internet]. [cited 2022 Nov 25]. Available from:
  5. What Is Anaerobic Exercise? [Internet]. WebMD. [cited 2022 Nov 25]. Available from:
  6. Kelly E. Anaerobic Exercise: What You Should Know [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2022 Nov 25]. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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