Aerobic v.s. Anaerobic Exercise – Top 4 Reasons for Each

images[1]Aerobic exercise (a.k.a. aerobics, cardiovascular exercise or cardio) is any sustained, rhythmic activity that primarily uses your larger muscles and challenges your heart and lungs.

Aerobic means “with oxygen,” so when you exercise aerobically your body uses oxygen to help produce energy during the exercise. Your heart and lungs have to work harder to constantly deliver oxygen to your body during aerobic exercise, and this strengthens your heart and lungs.

There are plenty of ways that you can exercise aerobically. You can walk, run, or bike. You can use a treadmill, stationary bike, stair stepper, elliptical machine, or rowing machine. You can participate in an aerobic exercise class. Here are the top four reasons to get moving:

1. Toughens the ticker. Aerobic exercise strengthens the hardest working muscle in your body – your heart. A stronger heart pumps blood more efficiently, which improves blood flow to all parts of your body. Better blood flow results in more oxygen and essential nutrients being delivered to the cells of your body. It also results in more effective removal of toxins and other waste materials from your body.

2. Helps keep arteries clear. Aerobic exercise raises HDL (good) cholesterol and lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol. This results in less buildup of plaque in your arteries. Plaques begin in artery walls and can grow over the years. The growth of cholesterol plaques slowly blocks blood flow in the arteries causing all sorts of health problems.

3. Rallies the respiratory system. Aerobic exercise improves the effectiveness with which your respiratory system can supply oxygen to your body. Your body needs a constant and plentiful amount of oxygen in order to function properly.

4. Reduces body fat. Aerobic exercise not only burns calories, it’s the only type of exercise that directly burns body fat. In order for body fat to be burned, oxygen must be used to help produce energy during the exercise, and this only occurs with aerobic exercise.

 

images[8]Anaerobic exercise is high intensity muscular activity that lasts for a short period of time. Strength training a.k.a. weight lifting or weight training and calisthenics (push-ups, pull-ups etc.) are examples of anaerobic exercise. Strength training is the most effective type of anaerobic exercise. Here are the top four benefits:

1. Builds and maintains lean muscle mass. The loss of lean muscle mass can begin as early as your mid-20s, and it results in a loss of strength, a slower metabolism and decreased functional fitness. The loss of lean muscle mass is not the normal result of aging; it’s primarily the result of a sedentary lifestyle. If you don’t use your muscles they waste away. Strength training is the most effective way to build and maintain lean muscle mass and stay strong and functionally fit.

2. Bolsters bones – strength and density. Millions of people worldwide suffer from osteoporosis. Consuming high calcium food (leafy greens, oranges, beans) or taking calcium supplements to increase bone strength and density is not enough. Bones need to be challenged by weight bearing exercise or they will become soft and brittle. Strength training will increase the strength and density of your bones more than any other type of exercise.

3. Motivates metabolism. The slower your metabolism, the easier it is to gain body fat and the harder it is to lose it. Strength training boosts metabolism because it builds and maintains lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass is metabolically active tissue, so the more lean muscle mass you have the faster your metabolism will be.

4. Reshapes the body and improves appearance. Vanity! No other type of exercise can reshape your body and improve your appearance like strength training can. Strength training will give you a strong, toned, looking body.

Mix it Up

I recently read an article on a training technique called the contrast method. It is a great way to mix up your exercises and training methods to prevent plateaus in weight loss, strength training and endurance.

I incorporated all these moves into my weight training, and it definitely upped the degree of intensity… it kicked my butt! Training with the contrast method means alternating between heavy strength exercises and energetic power exercises that work the same muscle group..

A study by the University of Santa Cruz states that this method showed an increased result in muscle strength, flexibility and weight loss. By starting with heavy weights the muscles are immediately engaged. Then when you switch to a high power exercise, it uses more muscles since they are already active – ultimately resulting in a better training program. Makes sense to me, and I am always looking for cool new stuff to do.

Try the following groups of exercises doing 10 reps of the strength exercise (listed first) followed by 30 seconds of the power aerobic exercise (second).

Squats
1. Squats
– you can do any type of squat you like. I did hack squats because I think they are the safest for heavier weight. You can even just squat your own body weight if you are not at a gym
2. Jump Squats – jump up quickly and land in squat position

Chest
1. Bench press
– use a bench press with barbell or modified version with dumbbells
2. Push-ups – do standard or clap push ups quickly (yea, the whole clap push up idea is a bit too scary. I will stick with the standard push up)

Arms
1. Lat Pull downs – use a lat machine and pull down to upper chest
2. Exercise Ball Toss – using a light exercise ball, repeat the motion of a two-hand throw overhead (sounded easy enough, but the last few throws were really tough)

Legs

1. Lunges – hold dumbbells in hands and do alternate leg lunges
2. Step Jumps – without dumbbells, step up and down on a low platform

SO MANY WEIGHTS, SO LITTLE TIME

Strength training or weight lifting is key for developing different muscle groups and getting fit. There are plenty of machines, free weights, and body weight exercises that you can use in your fitness routine.

Free weights are beneficial for strengthening the entire body. Exercises on free weights can be done at the gym or in your home. Proper form is the most important thing when using free weights. If you use proper form, you will seriously target the muscle you want to build. If you do not use proper form, you may be targeting a completely different muscle or muscle group. Total control is needed when lifting to prevent joints and muscle injuries.

The extra benefit of free weights is that your entire body is supporting the weight. That is why the muscles actively move during the exercise. As you lift the free weights, weight stabilization also takes place keeping your body in a steady manner. This promotes additional muscle strength.

The major advantage of exercise machines over free weights is safety and easy usage. These machines are equipped with control and guides to direct the resistance paths. Heavier weights are more comfortable to lift, increasing your muscle mass.

If you have access to a gym, using a combination of free weights and machine weights is best. You get the best of both worlds. If you want to lift heavy, stick with the machines. If you want a better focus on a certain muscle, and you know your form is perfect, go with the free weights.

A note about body weight exercises: Lifting your own body weight can be very effective. It doesn’t require any extras… just you. You can do body weight exercises anywhere and get a great all over body workout, since using body weight exercises also employs many smaller muscle groups for stability. Good form is a must. An example of some great body weight exercises are:
1. Push ups
2. Plank

3. Sit ups / Crunches
4. Squats
5. Lunges
6. Chair dips
7. Arm circles (just like you use to do in fifth grade P.E. class)
8. Shoulder push ups
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