Anaerobic Exercise

If you hang around fitness circles for long, you’ll probably hear the words aerobic and anaerobic thrown around, but you might not know what they mean. These two different types of exercise both have an important role to play, but you have to understand how they work so you can make the best use of them (

To understand the difference, all you need to do is look at the names. Aerobic means using or relating to oxygen, while anaerobic means without oxygen. What this means in practical terms is that aerobic exercise can sustain a longer session, which is better for building endurance but tends to be lower intensity. Higher-intensity anaerobic sessions are generally conducted in short bursts, often producing lactic acid.

Common examples of anaerobic exercise include sprinting, high-intensity interval training (HIT) and some forms of strength training (like weightlifting). While aerobic exercise focuses on endurance and cardiovascular health, anaerobic exercise is primarily about building power and growing muscle. It has other advantages, too, such as improving your metabolism for several hours even after your session finishes, helping you control glucose levels and more general exercise benefits such as the release of mood-lifting endorphins.

You still need to remember some of the basics of good practice when you’re trying anaerobic exercise, such as quality over quantity. Warm up beforehand, stay hydrated, make sure you eat properly (you need plenty of carbs for energy and protein for muscle building), allow enough time for recovery, and listen if your body tells you something’s wrong.

The higher-intensity nature of anaerobic exercise means the chance of injury may be higher, even with proper warm-ups, recovery periods and other safety measures to avoid overtraining and other risk factors. You’ll dehydrate faster, you’re putting more pressure on your joints and there’s a generally increased likelihood of strains and sprains. Rarer conditions such as rhabdomyolysis can also occur when muscle fibers enter the bloodstream.

This means it’s extra important to consult with professionals, from doctors who can make sure you don’t have any lurking cardiac issues to nutritionists who can help plan your diet and personal trainers who can ensure you use proper techniques, before you try any kind of high-intensity workout.

Anaerobic exercise can have an important part to play in a balanced routine, but it needs to be done properly after weighing the risks.

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