What is Anaerobic Exercise?

By Ehren Allen, DPT/Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist

3 Benefits of Anaerobic Exercise

Three benefits of anaerobic training are it causes the body to use stored energy for fuel, you can speed up your metabolism, and it can improve cardiovascular health.

Anaerobic Exercise is a form of training that does not use oxygen to help create energy. The anaerobic system converts the sugar in the body (glucose) to ATP without using oxygen. ATP is what your body tissues use for energy.

Woman performing a seated row for anaerobic exercise. JOI Rehab

Image of Woman doing a Seated Row

When you begin exercising, your body needs the energy to activate the muscles. It takes time for the respiratory system to adjust to the increased level of activity. During the adjustment period, the body uses the anaerobic system to produce energy until the respiratory system catches up. Your breathing rate begins to increase shortly after beginning an exercise such as running or riding a bike.

When you finish a run or a bike ride, you may notice that it takes a few minutes to catch your breath, even though you are no longer exercising. The anaerobic contribution to the exercise creates a deficit in the oxygen in the body tissues. After exercise, the increased breathing rate is important to restore the body to its pre-exercise level of oxygen.

What is an Example of an Exercise that is Anaerobic?

Anaerobic training is an important part of training for sports. Any activity that requires a quick burst of energy uses the anaerobic system. Interval training, plyometric training, and High-Intensity Training use the anaerobic system. The Anaerobic system improves efficiency with training.

Woman working out with weighted ropes for her anaerobic exercise. Ropes is a form of high intensity training. JOI Rehab

Woman doing a High Intensity Training Session with Weighted Ropes

Which Sports use Anaerobic Exercises?

Some examples of sports that incorporate more anaerobic training include:

  • Football
  • Baseball
  • Tennis
  • Weightlifting
  • Volleyball
  • Sprinting
  • Soccer
  • Swimming

What is the Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise?

The quick answer is that aerobic exercise uses oxygen to create energy and anaerobic exercise does not. Both are important with exercise and sports training. Aerobic exercise uses oxygen to convert glucose to ATP. Oxygen is delivered to the body’s tissues through the circulatory system (heart and blood vessels). The aerobic system is slow to respond to changes in activity level. Low-Intensity exercise that has a constant power output uses the Aerobic system. Some examples of sports that utilize more of the aerobic system are:

  • Marathon running
  • Cycling
  • Soccer
  • Cross-Country Skiing

Is Anaerobic Exercise Bad for You?

For most people, anaerobic exercise is not bad for you, but it should not be the only form of exercise. Aerobic training is vital to maintain cardiovascular health. Anaerobic exercise can help to speed up your metabolism, which is important for weight loss. A combination of aerobic and anaerobic training is important.

Anaerobic exercise with high-intensity training can be stressful on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and the metabolic systems. If you have a history of cardiac or metabolic (such as kidney, adrenal gland, or pancreatic issues), it is important to speak to your physician before beginning an aerobic or anaerobic exercise program.

What is the Benefit of Anaerobic Training?

image of woman about to run stair case for anaerobic exercise

High-intensity interval training

Anaerobic training is a crucial part of conditioning and sports training. Interval and high-intensity training improve performance and endurance with athletic activity. Some of the major benefits of anaerobic exercise are increased:

  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Coordination
  • Agility
  • Power

Anaerobic exercise is an important part of a sports training program. If done properly, it is a safe and effective method to make gains during your physical training.

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