There are many different habits and workouts you can do to improve your life. What about anaerobic exercise, what benefits can you expect?
One way to divide exercise is into two categories called aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
Aerobic exercise is lower-intensity exercise where your body can use oxygen to sustain your current level of movement. Aerobic exercise examples include low tempo jogging, cycling, swimming,…
At some intensity point, oxygen alone is not enough this is called anaerobic exercise. For this your body also starts using fuel like glucose.
Even so, you are still using a lot of oxygen and thus engaging your lungs so with anaerobic exercise you also get many of the benefits of aerobic exercise.
Anaerobic exercise examples include sprinting, lifting heavy weights, jumping,…
Keep in mind that intense exercise like anaerobic exercise can lead to injury more easily than softer workouts. If you’re starting to exercise again after a long time it may be smarter to start out less intense and build up from there.
That being said, if your body is able to deal with anaerobic exercise adding it to your routine can offer you some of the following amazing benefits.
1. Stronger muscles
Anaerobic exercise is a big category but the exercises in it can definitely help you improve muscle strength and endurance.
This goes even for the same exercise for example running. Sprinting at a high speed will engage your muscles more than jogging at a low tempo.
That being said if you are serious about building muscle you do generally want to choose the strength training workouts in the anaerobic exercise category.
Extra muscle is not only beneficial for your health in many ways but it is also considered to be visually appealing.
What muscles you will work with anaerobic exercise depends a lot on the specific exercises you do. Generally speaking, you can work out muscles over your entire body with anaerobic exercise.
2. Stronger immune system
Your immune system is a collection of biological processes that protects you from diseases.
You do have to keep in mind that at some point working out can turn into overtraining which can weaken immune function. This is a valid concern if your focus is on anaerobic exercise.
3. Can help with losing weight
Losing weight is about using up body fat, which is basically energy stored. To do this you want to make sure that you require more energy throughout the day than there is coming in from food.
One way to try to make this happen is by doing a workout. By increasing the intensity of your movements for a period of time you use up more energy than usual. Doing anaerobic exercise can help with weight loss since doing a workout like it generally requires more energy than most of your usual daily activities.
As an anaerobic exercise example, 30 minutes of sprinting at 10.9 mph (17.5 kmh) can help you burn around 532-914+ calories depending on weight, intensity, and much more. Not many people will be able to keep up this tempo for so long but these numbers are easier to compare to other workouts.
The actual number of calories you burn during an anaerobic workout will again depend a lot on the specific exercises in the workout.
Doing a workout at high intensity can also cause something called “afterburn”. This is basically having an increased metabolism for a while after you stop doing the exercise.
On top of that anaerobic exercise can help you build or preserve muscle mass. This in turn benefits long-term calorie-burning.
All in all, anaerobic exercise is generally a time-efficient way to burn calories in the long-term.
Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You can work out and gain weight at the same time if your other lifestyle habits are not good.
4. Improved mood
Most people are not always completely aware of it but the physical health of the human body has a big influence on the mood and thoughts of the individual.
Anaerobic exercise doesn’t just help with this by improving general health. There are inevitably many different reasons involved but one reason why exercises like anaerobic exercise benefit mental health is that they promote the release of endorphins, “feel-good” hormones (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).
Besides the actual physiological changes anaerobic exercise will cause, you will likely also have positive feelings about having done something challenging that’s good for you.
5. Builds fast muscle
Not all muscle is the same, it can be made of different types of muscles fibers. These different types have different properties with accompanying advantages and disadvantages.
A common categorization of these muscle fibers is “type 1, slow-twitch muscle” and “type 2, fast-twitch muscle”. Your muscle groups are not made of one or the other, they are made of a certain ratio of type 1 vs type 2 fibers. The way you train can influence this ratio (12).
The type 1, slow-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for longer duration workouts like jogging, swimming at a low tempo, cycling at a low tempo,… Basically activities at intensities you can do for an extended period of time.
The type 2, fast-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for short duration, fast body movement workouts like sprints, powerlifting, javelin throwing,…Basically activities at intensities you can only do for a short period of time.
Anaerobic exercise will generally be more focused on helping you build type 2 muscle fibers which results in faster, more explosive muscles.
6. Improved cardiovascular health
Your cardiovascular system is the circulatory system inside of your body and includes heart and blood vessels. These transport many types of important nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.
When you move more intensely your body needs to transport these things, which means using your heart, at a higher rate.
Your heart is a muscle that can be trained by using it more intensely. Anaerobic exercise pushes your cardiovascular system to its limits. If you don’t overdo it and get enough rest after this can strengthen your cardiovascular system. A stronger cardiovascular system in turn leads to a wide variety of other benefits (13, 14, 15, 16, 17).
Do keep in mind that muscles can get injured. If you have not done any physical activity in a long time you may want to start out with low-intensity movements and build up from there.
7. Can improve athletic performance
Getting better at a certain sport or exercise isn’t necessarily done by doing these activities more. Cross-training which is training in a different sport can be useful.
One study suggests that jump height in turn is related to sprint performance (20). This means that adding anaerobic exercise like squats to your routine can improve your performance in basically any sport that involves fast running.
On top of that sprinting training can simply improve sprinting performance, and in turn athletic performance (21).
8. Improved cognitive function
Another benefit of exercises like anaerobic exercise is that they can help you improve your cognitive function in a few ways. First of all, they can help with the prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (22).
Another way working out benefits cognitive function is by improving brain plasticity (23, 24, 25). Better brain plasticity basically means that you are able to learn things faster, see the connection between things faster, and remember things better.
That means that adding an anaerobic exercise workout to your routine can benefit you by improving areas like your academic performance, job performance, and much more.
9. Improved bone density
This is helpful for avoiding broken bones. Depending on your age you may not be that worried about something like this right now. However, exercising right now can help you avoid broken bones in 40 years. The things you do today have an impact on the future.
The way many parts of your body work is that by challenging them you set in motion processes that strengthen these body parts. The same goes for your bones, by putting pressure on them you make them stronger in the long-term.
How much and which bones anaerobic workouts strengthen will vary from exercise to exercise. In any case something like sprinting is likely better than jogging for bone density since you put more pressure on your bones with sprinting.
10. Lowers LDL
LDL, also known as low-density lipoproteins, is considered to be “bad” cholesterol since there are negative side effects associated with having high levels of LDL in your blood.
11. Time-efficient workout
Another benefit of anaerobic exercise is that a good workout session doesn’t require a lot of time. A good workout session isn’t necessarily about duration.
For example to build muscle you basically want to put enough strain on your muscles so muscle growth processes start. This doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time out of your day.
A sprinting workout can train your cardiovascular system in a shorter amount of time than a jogging workout.
Longer duration workouts can still offer benefits but this means that there is one reason less why you can’t work out.
This benefit of anaerobic exercise is especially useful if you have trouble finding enough time throughout your day to fit in a workout.
12. Healthier lungs
To move around your body needs oxygen, the more intensely the more oxygen. Your body absorbs oxygen from the air through your lungs.
Improving how well your lungs function leads to benefits like improved exercise performance and getting tired slower.
13. Slows down aging
Most people think of age as the number of days, months, and years that have passed since the day they were born, this is usually referred to as their chronological age. There are also many other ways to measure “age” based on physiological factors (41).
Exercises like anaerobic exercise obviously won’t have an influence on the number of days that have passed since you were born. However, physical activity can slow down the aging in terms of how fast other measurement methods progress (42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47).
In general these other age measurements are more accurate methods than chronological age for assessing risk on age-related diseases. Slowing these down can be a huge benefit for your health.
14. Helps against type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that involves consequences like high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and lack of insulin. These things in turn can have really bad consequences so type 2 diabetes is definitely something you want to avoid.
15. Improves sleep
Good quality and duration sleep are extremely important for your physical health and cognitive function. Unfortunately, many people can do a lot better with both quality and duration.
A lot of the things you do throughout the day influence the quality and duration in some way. One of the things that can benefit sleep a relatively high amount is doing a workout like anaerobic exercise (53, 54, 55).
You do want to keep in mind that exercising too close to bedtime can have the reverse effect and mess with your sleep, especially more intense workouts like anaerobic exercise. Make sure you give your body time enough time to calm down after a workout. For most people this comes down to avoiding exercises at least an hour or two before going to sleep.
16. Regulates blood pressure
Your blood pressure is how much pressure the blood circulating in your blood vessels pushes against the walls of these vessels. This measurement is a popular way to determine how healthy your heart is.
Another benefit of working out, and thus anaerobic exercise, is that it can help you regulate blood pressure (56, 57, 58). This happens because of the influence of a variety of consequences you get from anaerobic exercise including a stronger heart, less stress, expected weight loss, and more.
While inevitably some aerobic workouts are better for some of these benefits than anaerobic exercise, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.
One thing you need to remember is that anaerobic exercise can be hard on a wide variety of body parts including your knees, heart and back, especially if you have a lot of pounds to lose. If you are in a situation like that, walking, the elliptical trainer, or swimming may be better workout choices to start with.
Anaerobic exercise may also require more rest between sessions. You can for example implement 3 anaerobic exercise sessions a week instead of every day. The recommended number of anaerobic training sessions will vary from person to person.
Also keep in mind that consistency is a big factor for a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If anaerobic exercise is a workout you love, great. If not there are plenty of other exercises to consider that can also offer a lot of benefits.