Much press is given to the benefits of aerobic exercise, but what are the health benefits of anaerobic exercise? This article defines anaerobic exercise and describes the benefits of anaerobic exercise.
What Is Anaerobic Exercise?
The term "anaerobic" means "in the absence of oxygen" or "without oxygen." During anaerobic exercise, your body's demand for oxygen is greater than the available oxygen supply. While aerobic exercise is fueled by oxygen, anaerobic exercise is fueled by energy stored in your muscles. Most anaerobic exercise is extremely high intensity, short duration exercise lasting from a few seconds to up to two minutes. This is in direct opposition to aerobic exercise, which involves sustained activity of moderate intensity.
Types of Anaerobic Exercise
Anaerobic exercise is any exercise that is done at a high level of intensity. Virtually any exercise, including those traditionally thought of as aerobics exercises, can be turned into anaerobic exercise. The key is in the intensity. For instance, jogging at a moderate pace is aerobic, while sprinting is anaerobic. Some types of anaerobic exercise include:
- Sprinting (not just running, but all types such as bicycle sprints)
- Heavy weightlifting
- Interval training
- Other rapid bursts of high intensity exercise
Benefits of Anaerobic Exercise
What are the benefits of anaerobic exercise? There are a number of benefits that can help improve your overall health.
Improved Muscle Strength
Short, extremely intense bursts of exercise increases the amount of fast twitch muscle fiber in your body. Fast twitch muscle fiber is what your body calls on to give it that extra oomph when you need to perform some intense activity such as lifting a heavy object or putting on a burst of speed.
Increases Muscle Mass
The intense bursts of exercise required of the body during anaerobic exercise cause microtears in the muscles. It is the body's natural process of repairing these microtears that causes muscles to become stronger, more toned and larger.
Muscle tissue is hungrier than fat. By boosting your muscle mass through anaerobic training, you will create hungrier tissue. Having more muscle tissue causes a boost in your metabolism. Additionally, muscles are hungrier in the hours following high-intensity anaerobic exercise. Your body will burn more fuel for several hours following a high-intensity exercise session as opposed to the amount of fuel your body burns at rest.
Boosts Your VO2 Max
What is VO2 max? It is the highest amount of oxygen your body is capable of consuming during exercise. When you make anaerobic exercise a regular part of your exercise routine, this number is boosted. This is important because it gives you more oxygen availability for when your need to perform quick bursts of activity in your daily life. Increased VO2 max also improves your endurance for other activities, including aerobic activity.
While the inevitable result of beginning a program of anaerobic exercise is post-exercise soreness, once anaerobic exercise becomes a regular part of your exercise routine, soreness is minimized. This is because regular anaerobic exercise improves your body's tolerance to the waste by-products of exercise such as lactic acid. It also improves your body's capacity to efficiently eliminate these by-products of exercise.
Improves Your Energy
Your body relies on glycogen stored in your muscles as energy. Regular anaerobic exercise increases your body's capacity to store glycogen, giving you more energy when you need it.
Increased Bone Strength and Density
No exercise increases bone density more than anaerobic exercise. This is good news in the battle against osteoporosis that occurs as your body ages.
Improves Joint Protection
Additional muscle strength and muscle mass translates to joint protection in your body. This can protect you from injury.
Lowers Your Blood Sugar
Everything you eat is converted to sugar, which is then either burned immediately or stored in the muscles as glycogen or stored in the rest of your body as fat. If you require more glycogen for fuel, then your body converts more of your food intake into glycogen. Regular anaerobic exercise also helps to regulate insulin production, which helps you avoid spikes in your blood sugar.
Improved Ability to Perform All of the Tasks Required of Your Daily Life
Daily life is easier when you are in shape. The improved strength and capacity for bursts of intense activity can make your life easier - from climbing stairs to doing heavy lifting.
As you can see, anaerobic exercise has great benefits for your overall health. Before undertaking any exercise program, it's important that you check with your personal health care provider.