By understanding the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise, one can understand how these exercises work and affect an individual. The aerobic and anaerobic differences in exercise will also help you choose the right one for you accordingly. 


You might have heard the words aerobic and anaerobic used in the gym. But what do they mean by aerobic and anaerobic exercise? Here is a detailed guide to understanding more about the meaning of these two terms and checking the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Understanding these two terms is very important for a well-rounded exercise routine that will describe how you are working with your body and how the workout is affecting you. It will also provide more details on how much energy each type of exercise takes and which exercise will be more beneficial.

What is aerobic exercise?

Aerobic exercises are any physical activity that helps increase your heart rate and breath. It also involves various muscle groups, which allows your body to move faster for a sustained period. The word aerobic is related to the word “oxygen.” That is because your muscles use a lot of oxygen while performing aerobic exercise. You tend to breathe harder to supply more oxygen to your lungs. This, in turn, also increases your heart rate as it needs to pump out oxygen-rich blood to your muscle groups. Your muscles then use this oxygen-rich blood to generate the energy to keep you moving. Aerobic activities can vary in intensity and range from low to moderate to high.

Types of aerobic exercises

Any activity that pumps up your heart rate is considered aerobic exercise. Some of the common examples that you may be well acquainted with can be provided as follows:

  1. Cycling

When considering the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise, one can see that an exercise such as cycling tends to use up a lot more oxygen. Hence, it is an aerobic exercise. Cycling is also an easy aerobic exercise as you need not go out to get your exercise done. Cycling is also great for working your lower body and for cardiovascular fitness.

  1. Swimming

Swimming is also one of the low-impact aerobic exercises that work great for people with joint problems. Whether you are swimming with your family or just having fun with your friends, moving in the water can make your body work out a lot more than you think. It also poses as a great full-body workout.

  1. Hiking

Going out and hiking is also a great way to explore nature while working your body. It can also have an overall positive impact on both your health and well-being. Accessible for most people, hiking is a great way to spend your weekends as well.

  1. Rowing

Rowing can be a pretty intense workout. Whether you are using a rowing machine or are out in the water to get some rowing movements in, this unique back-and-forth aerobic exercise can give you a full-body workout. This exercise also provides a great burn in your leg muscles and will push your heart rates up by a notch.

  1. The elliptical

The elliptical machine is great for those who do not want to run around but enjoy the same cardiovascular benefits. The elliptical also provides an excellent, low-impact option for those with joint problems. The repetitive motion also gives a great workout to your hips, shoulders, and upper back muscles.

Benefits of aerobic exercise

The movement in the aerobic exercises is designed in such a way that it strengthens both your heart and lungs. Aerobic exercises have multiple benefits. Some of these benefits can be provided as follows:

  1. Lowered stress levels:

A heart-pumping cardio session can significantly lower your stress levels. This is because you are putting more focus on your muscle groups while working out, which takes off all the things you need to worry about from your mind.

  1. Weight management

Regular physical activities such as aerobics can prove helpful when it comes to weight management. This is also because you can burn off fat when working out your various muscle groups.

  1. Increased amount of sleep

Compared to those people who do not work out regularly, the people who work out regularly tend to have better sleep and sleep more soundly. In some cases, working out regularly might also help people with insomnia symptoms.

  1. Reduced risks of illnesses

Exercising daily can also benefit in reducing some of the risks involved with chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases, which include stroke and high blood pressure. Aerobic exercises are also highly beneficial in some cases of type 2 diabetes and cancers.

What is anaerobic exercise?

To understand more about aerobic and anaerobic differences, you might also want to know more about anaerobic exercise and its meaning. The exercises that you usually do on arm day or leg days are anaerobic exercises that involve anaerobic processes. These exercises are short and intense, which is quite the opposite of aerobic exercises. The word anaerobic is also associated with the word “without oxygen.” This also indicated that these types of exercises do not take energy from the oxygen that has been pumped from your heart; instead, it depends on the energy that your muscles have already stored. Also, unlike aerobic exercise, where you can set your comfort limits, here you will push yourself to the limits with each of the sets you perform.  

Types of anaerobic exercise

Anaerobic exercises are related to building muscles, primarily through resistance training. Some of the joint anaerobic exercises can be provided as follows:

  1. Strength training and weightlifting

Strength training mainly involves using weights or resistance bands to build muscle strength. Some of the exercises include deadlifts, squats, and bench presses. Lifting weights also involves powerful but short movement that causes your muscles to contract and produce energy.

  1. Circuit training

Circuits are a collection of workouts that help your body move between various stations to get a full-body workout. A combination of aerobic and strength exercises is commonly performed within circuit training. Circuit training also involves push-ups, lunges, and planks, which depend on body weight.

  1. High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval training workouts commonly refer to training programs that involve multiple intervals of high-intensity exercises such as burpees and sprinting. These intervals are followed by short periods of rest. This modern training technique has become quite popular as it can improve cardiovascular health and help burn fat.

  1. Calisthenic training

Calisthenic training is related to various workouts that involve body weight, such as pull-ups, push-ups, and dips. These movements tend to improve strength and endurance and can either be done at a gym or in public parks.

  1. Sprints

Short, high-intensity sprints are a great way to build muscles and improve anaerobic capacity.

Benefits of anaerobic exercise

Most health benefits related to aerobic exercises also apply to anaerobic exercises. This includes improved weight management, reduced risk of any illness, and even better sleep. Apart from these benefits, there can also be other benefits such as follows:

  1. Improved heart health

While aerobic exercise does get most of the credit for increasing heart health, anaerobic exercise also provides multiple heart-related benefits. Anaerobic exercise tends to increase levels of CNP, also called C-type natriuretic peptide, in young men. This offers heart-protective effects.

  1. Increased muscle mass

As anaerobic exercise includes strength training exercises, it is more effective in building muscle mass than aerobic exercises. An anaerobic exercise, which provides for anaerobic processes, is also an excellent option for those looking to increase muscle mass and bone density, which also helps with age-related problems.

  1. Shorter workouts

While these anaerobic exercises are just for short intervals, they tend to give an effective boost to your health. This means as little as three weekly HIIT sessions can even increase your aerobic capacity highly.

  1. More power in muscles

People trying to make an athletic career need to include anaerobic exercises in their schedule. This is because including anaerobic exercise can increase your endurance levels while also increasing your muscle strength.


Now that you have learned more about the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise, it is time to check which one will suit you the best. Try not to focus more on one type of exercise. If both are performed at moderate levels, it is possible to keep your body healthier and more robust. However, if you overwork your muscles, you might end up overworking your muscles and hence damaging the muscle fibres. This is precisely why the aerobic and anaerobic exercise differences must be well known before choosing.


  1. Do you burn more fat in aerobic or anaerobic?

Burning of fat is more prevalent in aerobic exercises as anaerobic exercise is more related to muscle mass gain. This is why aerobic exercise is preferred to lose fat more than anaerobic exercise.

  1. Is jogging aerobic or anaerobic?

Slow-paced exercises such as jogging are related to aerobic exercises as there is more involvement of oxygen-based breathing and energy production while jogging.

  1. Is the treadmill an anaerobic exercise?

Treadmills, which are commonly seen, are aerobic exercises. This is because running on a treadmill involves taking up a lot of oxygen-based breathing.


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