Back to Living Better

The benefits of anaerobic exercise

If you are looking for a great way to build muscle and lose weight, consider anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise is short, fast, high-intensity exercise that doesn’t require the body to utilize oxygen as its energy source.

“Anaerobic exercise uses energy that’s readily available in your muscles,” says Paige Jones, ACSM CES, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center. “Because the body isn’t relying on oxygen, these strong, powerful movements can only be sustained for 10 to 15 seconds.” 

Good examples of anaerobic exercise include:

“When working out, proper exercise intensity is a must for the activity to be considered anaerobic,” says Jones. 

The difference between anaerobic and aerobic exercise

Anaerobic and aerobic exercise use different energy systems of the body.  While anaerobic exercise uses energy from muscles, aerobic exercise uses the energy stored in your body from carbs, proteins, and fats in combination with the oxygen we breathe to make energy readily available to the muscles. Aerobic activities can be sustained for long periods of time depending on your exercise intensity.   

“There is a threshold where we can cross over from aerobic to anaerobic exercise and that is based on your intensity,” says Jones. “It’s called the anaerobic threshold or lactate threshold. For example, a long-distance runner who picks up the pace too much can cross over from the endurance exercise energy pathway to the same one used by a sprinter, thus not being able to sustain the speed for long.” 

How does anaerobic exercise benefit the body?

Anaerobic exercise is beneficial for good health because it:

As we age, we tend to lose muscle at a rate of about 1 percent per year after age 27, unless we actively work to slow that decline,” says Jones.  “Muscle is a metabolically active tissue and the more of it we can maintain, the more calories we can burn while at rest.” 

Anaerobic exercise also enhances our ability to do the things we enjoy, says Jones.

“Whether you run, duck hunt, do ballroom dancing, trail hike, or play with the kids, increased strength and muscle tone will enable you go to longer and stronger,” says Jones.

Tips for creating an anaerobic training program

Anaerobic exercise isn’t easy, so it may help to find a degreed and certified fitness professional to help you establish a program based on your medical history and fitness goals. 

“We all have a different fitness personality and hence will enjoy some activities over others,” says Jones. “Your fitness professional will help you determine whether to use free weights, machines, your own body weight or recreational sports for anaerobic exercise and then assist you in developing a plan.”

If you are ready to jump into it on your own, here are some basic weightlifting recommendations:

  • Warm up for at least 5 minutes.

  • Start with large muscle groups first.

  • Do one to three sets of 8 to 15 repetitions. (Note: Make sure that the selected weight is heavy enough that by the last repetition, you feel ready to stop.)  

  • Complete 8 to 10 exercises. Proper technique is very important. 

Get more Living Better fitness tips.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

Related Stories

Schedule your appointment online