Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise

Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise

Aerobic Exercise:

  • Defined as lower intensity activity that lasts longer than a few minutes.
  • During this type of exercise, the body’s oxygen demand can ultimately be met.
  • Aerobic exercises use oxygen as the main energy source to sustain continuous, rhythmic movements.
  • Examples include swimming, cycling, walking and long-distance running.
  • Benefits include increased cardiovascular and respiratory efficiency, decreased risk of chronic disease (like heart disease and diabetes), and improved endurance and strength.

Anaerobic Exercise:

  • Identified as short duration, high intensity exercises.
  • This type of exercise exceeds the oxygen supply, and the body resorts to breaking down glucose for energy without using oxygen.
  • Examples include sprinting, strength training like weightlifting, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
  • Benefits include increased muscle mass, improved speed and power, enhanced performance in high-intensity, short duration situations.
  • Can lead to the production of lactic acid, which contributes to muscle fatigue.

Comparison and contrast:

  • Aerobic exercises improve endurance and the condition of the heart and lungs, while anaerobic exercises increases strength, speed and muscle mass.
  • Aerobic exercise uses oxygen to break down glucose for energy, while anaerobic exercise breaks down glucose for energy without using oxygen.
  • Aerobic should not cause a significant build up of lactic acid, while anaerobic may produce lactic acid which can cause muscle fatigue.

Adaptation to training:

  • Regular aerobic or anaerobic training can cause several adaptations in the body.
  • The heart can become larger and stronger, improving its ability to pump blood effectively (cardiovascular conditioning).
  • The amount of capillaries in the muscles can increase, improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients (vascularization).
  • With regular anaerobic exercise, individuals can increase their tolerance to lactic acid.
  • Aerobic exercise can help increase the volume of red blood cells and haemoglobin, enhancing oxygen transport.
  • Regular training can also improve lung capacity and function.


  • The Active Recovery is a gentle exercise focusing on a lower intensity activity which helps to recover better than complete rest after anaerobic training.
  • The Oxygen Debt refers to the additional amount of oxygen that the body must take in to return to its resting state after anaerobic exercise which also helps to break down the build-up lactic acid.
  • A healthy diet, hydration, and adequate sleep also play pivotal roles in recovery after both aerobic and anaerobic exercises.