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Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic Exercise Overview

Aerobic exercise is the type of moderate-intensity physical activity that you can sustain for more than just a few minutes with the objective of improving your cardiorespiratory fitness and your health. "Aerobic" means "in the presence of, or with, oxygen." You know you're doing aerobic exercise when your heart's thumping and you're breathing faster than you do at rest but you can sustain the activity for extended periods of time. I recommend the cue "warm and slightly out of breath" to determine if your activity level is aerobic. Walking, jogging, biking, dancing, and swimming are examples of activities that can be performed aerobically.

Anaerobic, on the other hand, means "the absence of, or without, oxygen." Anaerobic exercise is performed at an intensity that causes you to get out of breath quickly and can be sustained for only a few moments. Weight lifting and sprinting are examples of anaerobic exercise.

Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise

A single activity can include elements of both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. For example, interval training, where you alternate cycles of low-intensity (aerobic) and high-intensity (anaerobic) work during the same workout, has elements of both. So does a game of tennis where you might sprint at one moment (anaerobic) and then move less aggressively for several minutes (aerobic) as you hit ground strokes from the baseline.

Most activities can be performed aerobically or anaerobically. For example, you could walk briskly on the treadmill at 3.5 miles per hour and feel warm and slightly out of breath (aerobic), or you could walk very briskly at 4.5 miles per hour and feel very out of breath (anaerobic). The same is true for biking, swimming, dancing, or virtually any other activity. The intensity of the workout determines whether an activity is aerobic or anaerobic, and all you need to do is pace yourself to elicit the type of training you desire.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/6/2014

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