Anaerobic vs Aerobic Exercise, Which One is Better?

I am often asked anaerobic vs aerobic exercises questions by people that would like to start doing some training (or workout), but don't really know what to do (or why).

anaerobic vs aerobicIf you don't know either, or if you'd like to learn more about the benefits of these two types of training, this article may be for you.

Let me assume that you already know the very basics of anaerobic vs aerobic:

Anaerobic exercises help build muscle and get stronger

Aerobic exercises improve circulation

Regular physical activity helps prevent and even cure several diseases and slow down the natural aging process.

You can train in many ways, but there is a basic distinction between anaerobic vs aerobic.

What distinguishes them is primarily the type of energy used.

During aerobic exercise the body initially draws energy from sugar reserves, and then, to support the effort, from fat storage, and the "fuel" used to burn that energy is oxygen, provided to the muscles by the cardiovascular system.

For anaerobic exercise, instead, the body needs high levels of energy very quickly, which is obtained without using oxygen for the combustion of energy substrates.

Aerobic activity requires a moderate effort for a prolonged period of time, at least 20 minutes. Examples include walking, jogging, swimming, biking and cross country skiing.

Anaerobic activity is characterized instead by intense efforts but short (from a few seconds to a few minutes) such as, for example, sprints, running on 100-200 meters, jumps and weightlifting. This type of exercise needs rest periods before being repeated.

Anaerobic vs Aerobic: What Are the Benefits?


aerobic trainingA regular program of aerobic exercise

  • Tones the muscles
  • Promotes a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate
  • Helps reduce stress and control anxiety and depression
  • Makes you lose weight
  • Improves breathing and resistance


anaerobic trainingThe anaerobic exercise is strength training, which strengthens muscles and increases mass.

More on Anaerobic vs Aerobic Comparison

Aerobic exercise can be practiced by everyone, by moderating efforts based on age, weight and general health conditions.

Anaerobic is generally not recommended if you have major health problems, such as heart disease. On the other hand, if carried out, at least initially, with the supervision of a competent coach and some cautions, it may also be practiced by the elderly.

In growing children and adolescents it is best to avoid the weights. Rather try to improve the musculature with only body weight exercises.

Which Physical Activity is Best for Weight Loss?

As I said before, many people have no idea what to do and what to choose between anaerobic vs aerobic. They are those who would like to just "start doing something" to keep in shape.

Many others, on the other hand, have a specific purpose in mind, and it is that of losing weight.

I have talked quite a bit of weight loss and how to burn fat in this site, but here let me go back to it and tell you some quick tips.

Aerobic exercise "burns" the fat storage and raises your metabolism, which remains more active for hours after exercise.

But also anaerobic activity helps lose weight because it increases muscle mass.

And since muscles consume lots of calories, more developed muscles consume more calories.

At the end of the day, the ideal solution is to combine the two types of activity, with mixed or alternated workouts.

Most of the sports involve a mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

How Much Should I Train?

In general, if you want to do mainly aerobic activity it is ideal to do it at least three times a week for about an hour, by moderating the intensity according to your needs.

For example low intensity is suitable for beginners, for those with cardiovascular problems and for those who are overweight and want to lose weight.

For those who prefer a typical anaerobic training, such as lifting weights, usually I recommend sessions of 45 minutes to an hour, 2-4 times a week, depending on the goal.

The interval between sets should be about a minute, with a number of repetitions which is usually between 8 and 15, depending on how heavy the load is.

If you want to read more about how long training sessions should be, and how long to rest between sets, you may found these articles interesting:

Why Should I Do Short Training Sessions

How Many Sets and Reps to Build Muscle Fast

How Long to Rest Between Sets


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