Everyone has their favorite exercise routine. Some like to run, some like to use those amazing mechanical beasts at the gym to target specific muscle groups. Still others let their body become the gym and focus on sit-ups, pull-ups and push-ups. But how many people understand the difference between your typical aerobic workout and anaerobic exercise? The benefits of anaerobic exercise might surprise you.
The aerobic and anaerobic labels refer to the amount of oxygen that is available to the muscles relative to their requirements based on activity. If you are doing aerobic exercises, your muscles are getting enough oxygen to meet their needs and the waste products (mostly lactic acid) generated by muscle contractions are being swept away as quickly as they are made.
Anaerobic exercise does not mean that you are holding your breath while you exercise. That would be dangerous beyond words. It simply means that your muscles are demanding more oxygen than they are receiving at that instant in time.
Why do people do anaerobic exercises? This type of exercise makes your body better able to withstand muscle fatigue and increases your endurance. You develop stronger muscles and improve our cardio-respiratory fitness.
Anaerobic exercise is brief and very intense. Your muscles reach the failure point after a short time when they don't get enough oxygen and are forced to use energy stored in their cells through anaerobic respiration. This type of energy consumption is less efficient and releases a lot of lactic acid, which is that burn you feel in your muscles when you are exercising.
There are a number of popular ways to conduct anaerobic exercise. Weight lifting, with weights that are right at the limit of your lifting ability, is a popular anaerobic exercise. Another popular anaerobic exercise regimen is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This consists of a number of brief exercises that are done in rapid succession so that your body doesn't have time to recover aerobically. Most people appreciate that anaerobic exercises can be done quickly while still delivering major fitness benefits.
Many athletes use anaerobic exercise to prepare for football, soccer, rugby, basketball, hockey and sprint distance running and swimming. In every case, the increased endurance and improved ability to handle lactic acid discharge makes this type of exercise a real winner.
Be sure to check in with your doctor before taking up an intense anaerobic exercise program. Slowly increase your exercise intensity over days or weeks so that you don't hurt yourself. Muscle failure, the end result of anaerobic respiration, can be pretty dramatic. And remember to stretch first. You should be nice and limber before you ramp up your intensity to avoid injury.
Could anaerobic exercise be the fast-track to a stronger, leaner you? Give it a try and let us know your results!