Aerobic Vs. Anaerobic

Most likely you have heard of aerobics (referring to the aerobic energy system in the body)  Perhaps you have also heard of the anaerobic system…

But what is the aerobic and anaerobic system, really?

The answer can get quite complex, but I will try to simplify it.

Every move that we make requires the production and use of energy.

In a quick burst of movement – like a sprint – the body produces energy without oxygen.  The energy is needed so fast and with such an intensity that there is no time to wait for the oxygen required.  This is why you will start to take big deep breaths with this kind of movement.  The body goes into a type of deficit and needs to replenish the oxygen.

In long bouts of exercise like a long run or bike ride, we may feel that initial increase in breath and heart rate, and then it levels off and returns to a state of balance – meaning the body is receiving the amount of oxygen needed to continue to produce the energy required to maintain the level of movement that you are doing.

When you are gasping for air and taking deep breaths you know you are using the anaerobic energy system.

When you’re sweating but your breathing is even you are using the aerobic energy system.

Training these two systems have a lot of benefits.

Here’s the thing:

when you train the anaerobic system – the aerobic system will become stronger and you will have more endurance
when you train the aerobic system – the anaerobic system does not get stronger

Why is this important to know?

If you go for long walks, bike rides, or runs you may still get winded by quickly running up a flight of stairs.  This can be quite perplexing when a person feels as though they get a lot of exercise and then is suddenly gasping for air after a quick sprint to catch a bus or a plane.

High intensity interval training was voted the #1 way to exercise in 2014 and has been in the top 3 ever since, landing the #1 spot again for 2018.  This is why.  People are finding that if they do some sort of interval training it incredibly enhances all of the other things they are doing.  High intensity interval training can sound scary, but all it really means is that you increase the intensity of what you are doing for a short period of time, rest, and then increase the intensity again.

Increasing the intensity can be for 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30, 40, or 50 seconds.  The rest time depends on your level of fitness.  You can rest for 10 seconds, 20 … or even up to 2 mins in between.

It’s pretty cool to think that you can train the body to respond better to quick intense bursts of movements, and that when you do it also increases the total endurance of the body.


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