Anaerobic Exercise Vs Aerobic Exercise - Which is Better For You? by Shin Ohtake
When it comes to promoting weight loss and cardiovascular health, just about everyone thinks of aerobic exercise as being the solution. While it may be the more popular and obvious choice, it isn't necessarily the best solution. Anaerobic exercise on the other hand, has incredible benefits that are often overlooked.
Let's first clarify aerobic and anaerobic in terms of it's dependence on oxygen. We, as organisms, require oxygen at all times. Although aerobic is considered oxygen dependent and anaerobic non-oxygen dependent, this is only in molecular terms. Whether you're doing wind sprints or running a marathon, as an organism you are breathing and utilizing oxygen all the time.
Oxygen only becomes a variable among the different energy pathways. Therefore, exercises that are considered aerobic in nature such as running or biking at low to moderate intensities for long durations, get their energy predominantly from oxygen dependent energy pathways. Whereas exercises that are considered anaerobic in nature such as weight lifting and sprints that are shorter in duration and higher in intensity, get their energy predominantly from non-oxygen dependent pathways.
Since aerobic exercises are considered to be beneficial for cardiovascular health, people tend to pick activities that are low to moderate in intensity but longer in duration over doing activities that are higher in intensity but much shorter in duration. Hence the aerobic vs. anaerobic battle. In actuality, activities that are considered aerobic or anaerobic are not that different in terms of energy. Activities requiring different energy pathways are briefly explained as follows:
Activities that are very high in intensity that require a lot of energy very quickly, utilize the phosphagen energy pathway. This energy pathway is not oxygen dependent. It provides energy very quickly, but only for a short duration. This is because it derives energy from an energy rich element called "phosphates" that are stored in the skeletal muscles in very limited quantity. Because of its limited supply, phosphate gets depleted very quickly (10 seconds or less). However, in about 5 min almost all of the phosphate will be replenished and stored back into the skeletal muscles.
Activities that are high in intensity and longer in duration (up to 2 min), utilize the glycolytic energy pathway. The glycolytic energy pathway uses glucose stored as glycogen in our body as it's source of energy. This energy pathway operates in the absence of oxygen and converts glucose to energy, but also produces lactic acid as a nasty by-product. At this intensity the body cannot metabolize or get rid of lactic acid as fast as it's being produced. The lactic acid accumulates and wreaks havoc on skeletal muscles, deteriorating its ability to do work. This is known as the lactic threshold or the anaerobic threshold.
Activities that are light to moderate in intensity and longer than 2 minutes in duration utilize the oxidative energy pathway. This energy pathway is oxygen dependent. Similar to the glycolytic energy pathway, it uses glucose in our bodies as it's source of energy. However, this pathway converts glucose into pyruvate which enters the Krebs cycle. The Krebs cycle is very efficient and yields more energy from glucose without producing lactic acid as a by-products. Therefore, more energy is produced as demanded by activities with longer durations. This energy pathway can also use fat as an energy source at appropriate low intensities. However, the process is very slow and inefficient, especially in terms of performance.
Even though these energy pathways are distinct in their processes, they're intricately interdependent. Let's take a look at how the energy pathways work together during an activity such as running: Warm up by jogging for 10 - 15 min at an easy pace. At this intensity the body doesn't need to tap into the anaerobic energy pathways so it uses the oxidative energy pathway to fuel the run. After the warm up, pick up the pace and do a 400m run at a moderate to high intensity. At this intensity both the phosphagen and the glycolytic energy pathways come into play. After the 400m, finish it off with a 60m sprint. The immediate demand for energy for such a high intense but short duration activity can only be provided by the phosphagen energy pathway. Cool down by jogging at a low intensity for 800m. The oxidative pathway will provide energy during the cool down.
As pointed out in the example above, all three energy pathways work simultaneously at all times and our body innately knows when and how to seamlessly emphasize the right energy pathway as dictated by the intensity and duration of the activity. When just looking at the facts, it becomes clear that aerobic vs. anaerobic is more semantics than anything else. Aerobic exercise has gotten more attention and has been associated with better health compared to it's anaerobic counter part. The truth is that they both exist under the same umbrella.
Fitness should be viewed as a whole and not in parts. You should be more concerned about partaking in activities or exercises that stimulate all energy pathways rather than just training aerobically or anaerobically. The body is innately intelligent and doesn't distinguish whether or not we're doing "aerobic" or "anaerobic" exercise. It simply responds by providing the necessary energy demanded by the activity.
Shin Ohtake is the author of the world-famous fitness program, MAX Workouts. To learn more about how you can get ultra lean and toned with shorter workouts, visit http://www.MaxWorkouts.com