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What’s the Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise?

What’s the Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise?

When we commit to exercising — real, productive exercise — we’re learning what our body is capable of. 

What really drives us on our fitness journey is a better knowledge of ourselves and what our bodies need. Every rep in the gym familiarizes you with and strengthens your muscles; every lap around the track and you learn more about how deep you can dig to keep on.

Exercise, when you think about it, is a means of self-discovery. That being the case, the more we know about our body–all our muscles, what they need, and how to best train them–we’re learning even more about what we can do.

Familiarity with what you’re doing at the gym goes a long way in getting you the most out of your fitness regimen. So when you’re able to understand the nuances of what aerobic and anaerobic exercise are and the differences between them, you’re empowering yourself to optimize your fitness program.

Learn more about the benefits of aerobic and anaerobic exercise and see how you can supercharge your fitness.

What’s Aerobic Training?

Regardless of your fitness level, you’ve likely heard the term aerobic before. But what is it exactly?

Aerobic workouts are forms of exercise whose primary function is cardiovascular conditioning. Quite literally, aerobic means “with oxygen.” When we breathe, we flood our body with the oxygen our muscles need to move and function. So the real thrust of what aerobics do for the body concerns breathing-intensive, sustained exercise that can build a stronger heart.

What Are Some Examples of Aerobic Exercise?

Think of any type of exercise that requires sustained, consistent output. There are two subgenres of aerobic exercise called low impact aerobics and high impact aerobics. They differentiate the levels of intensity involved with the exercise.

Low impact aerobics can be more easygoing, not necessarily requiring significant energy output. Activities like walking, cycling, swimming, or rowing qualify low impact aerobics; you can always take these activities to an extreme level, but you don’t need to.

High impact aerobics, the more intense kind, involves exercises like running, sprinting, jumping rope, and jumping jacks. These are moderate intensity physical activities sustained over a period of time. 

What Are the Benefits of Aerobic Exercise?

The name aerobic — with oxygen — describes what it is that aerobic activity does for the body. Our breathing, the flooding of oxygen through our bloodstream to our muscles, really tests our heart health.

You may have heard exercises like aerobics called cardio by your personal trainer or fellow gym-goers. Cardio refers to the heart, which is among the most significant beneficiaries of aerobic activity.

Aerobic activity has been shown to assist with everything from:

The health benefits of aerobic activity are many, but the most significant ones deal with our heart. Whether you’re running or walking, aerobic exercise can be a great way to prevent unintended weight gain, improve your heart health, and test your endurance.

How Often Should I Do Aerobic Exercise?

According to the American Heart Association, the minimum of aerobic exercise you should be doing is 30 minutes a day, five to seven days a week. 

Aerobics is a beneficial form of exercise because it is great for our heart and overall health and allows us to work at a pace that best suits our needs. 

If you feel comfortable exceeding that daily recommended minimum, that is entirely up to you. As with any physical activity, it’s important to understand your limits. Consult your physician or physical trainer so you don’t overexert or injure yourself. 

And to ensure you’re getting the most of your aerobic exercise, give yourself the boost of energy and electrolytes you need with supplements from Gainful like our Personalized Hydration formula customized to your intensity level. .

When you are pushing your limits, staying hydrated is crucial. Personalized Hydration contains essential electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium to help support muscle function and fluid balance. It also has a small amount of cane sugar to help accelerate hydration.

Gainful Hydration is personalized based on your workout frequency, intensity, and sweat levels, our formula is sure to provide your body with the tools it needs to recover. 

What Is Anaerobic Training?

Aerobic exercise deals with the cardiovascular parts of our health — but what about anaerobic workouts?

Aerobic means “with oxygen,” and anaerobic means “without oxygen.” Compared to aerobic exercise, which tends to involve sustained physical activity for a period of time, anaerobic activity involves shorter but more intense exercises. 

Anaerobic exercises don’t use oxygen, and rely on short term forms of energy, such as glucose.

What Are Examples of Anaerobic Exercise?

Anaerobic workouts are shorter, high-intensity exercises that draw on various energy sources in the body.

There can be an overlap between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. But generally, most anaerobic exercises tend to involve weight lifting, strength training, or other intense activity. Think of things like bench presses, dumbbell exercises, or resistance training.

There’s also calisthenics, exercises that use your own body weight as means of resistance. Push-ups, sit-ups, and even yoga are calisthenics that also qualify as anaerobic exercise.

Then there’s HIIT exercise, high-intensity interval training. These are normally aerobic exercises but are done with such high intensity and in such short bursts that your body processes them as anaerobic. 

What Are the Benefits of Anaerobic Exercise?

The benefits you gain from anaerobic activity can be more varied than aerobics or cardiovascular exercise.

As you might imagine, the strength training can help build of preserve muscle mass, strengthen bones, and reduce injury risk.

With the stored fats and carbs that anaerobic exercise expends, activities like these have been shown to burn fat and improve our performance. Additionally, the more muscle mass you gain with anaerobic exercise, the more fat you burn, as muscle burns more calories than fat.

How Often Should I Do Anaerobic Activity?

Anaerobic activities are inherently more intense than aerobic exercise. With that being the case, you must exercise with your health and safety in mind. Consult with your physician or a physical trainer before doing intense anaerobic activities.

Especially with weight lifting and other forms of strength training, risk for injury can be higher compared to less intense forms of exercise.

To ensure that you’re not over-exerting your body with intensive anaerobic exercise, start slow if you’re just beginning.

The CDC recommends that adults devote at least two days to anaerobic exercises like strength training, focusing on each muscle group (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, arms, and shoulders).

To maximize your results while working those muscle groups, performance nutrition like Gainful’s Personalized Protein provides you with a good source of protein to ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs to build more muscle. Our Creatine Performance Boost also includes just the right amount of creatine to support anaerobic exercise and short-term energy.

How Are Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise Different?

The textbook difference between these two types of exercise boils down to how your body fuels itself while performing these activities. 

With aerobic exercise, breathing and oxygen are the absolute keys. In anaerobics, your body is drawing from a supply of stored energy, from glucose to carbs, fats, and protein.

But what really matters is what you want to get out of it.

The CDC recommends a healthy balance that incorporates both aerobics and anaerobics into your weekly exercise regimen. So the difference for your purposes as someone pursuing your fitness depends on your fitness goals. 

Build muscle with anaerobic strength training. Lower your blood pressure by going on a brisk walk. Your fitness is a means for you to discover your potential, and by using aerobic and anaerobic exercises safely and effectively, you can build the person you know you can be.

How Can Gainful Help?

We’re committed to your fitness. Gainful works hard to provide personalized performance nutrition and individual Registered Dietitian support to empower active people to achieve their goals. 

We believe that fitness is more than just a means of achieving a healthy life — it is a means of sustaining a happy life. In order to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your exercise experience, we’ve crafted proven supplements that help you perform your best and make the most out of your workout.

We sweat the details so you don’t need to. With science-backed, expert-led formulas that are personalized to your needs, we’re here to help you be your healthiest self. 


Aerobic Exercise | Cleveland Clinic

Health Benefits of Aerobic Activity | National Library of Medicine

American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity for Adults and Kids | Heart.org

The Health Benefits Of Anaerobic Exercise | Piedmont Healthcare


Resistance Training is Medicine: the effects of strength training on health | National Library of Medicine

How much physical activity do adults need? | CDC

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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