What’s the Difference Between Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise?

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise

Sometimes the long list of words and phrases associated with exercise can be confusing. Anaerobic, strength training, weight training, aerobic, body weight training, cardio exercises, high intensity interval training are all forms of exercise that can have similar and different meanings. So, what’s the difference between aerobic and anaerobic training?

According to WebMD, there are some similarities and crossover qualities between these 2 forms of exercise. Here’s how they define aerobic and anaerobic training:

Aerobic exercise –

“Any activity that stimulates your heart rate and breathing to increase, but not so much that you can’t sustain the activity for more than a few minutes.” (The word aerobic literally means “with oxygen”.)

Anaerobic exercise –

“The type of exercise where you get out of breath in just a few moments, like when you lift weights, when you sprint, or when you climb a long flight of stairs.” (The word aerobic means “without oxygen”.)

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic exercise

As you can see, the basic difference between these 2 popular forms of exercise centers around oxygen.

Most of the cells in your body would rather draw their energy by using oxygen to fuel your metabolism. Aerobic activities (with oxygen) allow your muscle cells to repeatedly work without fatigue. This is why aerobic exercise can be performed for an extended period of time.

Anaerobic forms of exercise (without oxygen) force your cells to rely on other processes which do not require oxygen to power your muscle. This is what causes fatigue during anaerobic exercises rather quickly.

Some examples of aerobic exercise are swimming, biking, walking and dancing. However, these can quickly become anaerobic forms of exercise when they are extremely intense or strenuous. So the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercises sometimes just comes down to intensity.

Aerobic exercises are generally those which boost your heart rate and breathing, but can be sustained for an extended period of time. When you enjoy a Jazzercise or Zumba class, you can expect to be active for 30 to 60 minutes each session. This is a form of aerobic exercise.


Anaerobic and aerobic exercises both provide excellent health benefits, like a stronger heart, fat burning properties, increased energy and an improved ability to deal with stress. Both can be a part of a smart exercise plan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *