Exercise is an essential and irreplaceable component of a healthy lifestyle. It helps you burn more calories, improves your muscle strength, and also contributes to better heart health. However, different forms of exercise have slightly different benefits. Therefore, you must plan your daily workout to get the maximum health benefits of exercise. An anaerobic exercise is a form of exercise that offers various health benefits within a short duration. Here is how it differs from other forms of exercise, like aerobic workouts, and who can benefit the most from it.

What Is An Anaerobic Exercise?

The word anaerobic means without oxygen. Therefore, the difference between anaerobic vs. aerobic exercise is that the former does not consume oxygen for energy, while the latter relies on oxygen.

Anaerobic exercises involve short and intense spells of exercise that do not consume oxygen for energy. Instead, they break down the glucose present in the muscles for energy.

Some examples of anaerobic exercise for weight loss include High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT), weight lifting, and calisthenics. These exercises can improve your endurance, muscle, and bone strength. Furthermore, they can help with fat loss.

What Is The Science Behind Anaerobic Exercise?

The anaerobic exercise entails intense muscle contractions that happen faster than oxygen can be supplied for energy. Therefore, this form of exercise uses stored glucose in the muscles for energy instead of oxygen. Glucose is stored in the muscles in the form of glycogen. The body first converts this glycogen into glucose molecules. It then breaks down these glucose molecules using a two-step reaction called lactic acid fermentation that releases energy.

In the first step, the glucose molecules are converted to pyruvic acid. This step releases energy that is utilized by the body during anaerobic exercise for weight loss. In the second step, lactic acid is produced as a byproduct. This lactic acid accumulates in the muscles, causing an irritating sensation. Due to this uncomfortable sensation, it is recommended to perform anaerobic workouts for shorter durations only.

Anaerobic Vs. Aerobic Exercise – Which Is Better?

Aerobic Exercise

You may have various questions regarding the benefits of anaerobic vs. aerobic exercise. The main difference between both forms of exercise is that aerobic exercises utilize oxygen for energy, while anaerobic workouts use glucose stored in the muscles for energy through lactic acid fermentation. Another difference between the two forms of exercise is that aerobic workouts are usually longer and less intense than anaerobic workouts.

According to studies[1], both forms of exercise may improve cardiovascular health. Furthermore, both workouts will boost your mental health too. However, anaerobic workouts may be a little more effective in encouraging fat loss.

On the other hand, anaerobic exercise for weight loss involves intense exercises that may not be suitable for everyone. Hence, you may need to customize your workout with both forms of exercise and slowly build up your strength to perform more intense workouts.

At-Home Aerobic And Anaerobic Exercises For Beginners

You can try a variety of aerobic exercises at home, which are simple enough for beginners. These include dancing, jogging, and brisk walking. These exercises will increase your heart rate and utilize oxygen for energy. Alternatively, if you are more interested in anaerobic workouts, you can start with simple HIIT workouts at home or try weight lifting. In general, anaerobic exercise duration will be lesser than aerobic exercise duration. You can even combine two or alternate between them to reap all their benefits.

How To Get Started With Anaerobic Exercises

If you are a beginner, you must start slowly with anaerobic exercise for weight loss or general fitness. Go for lower-intensity and short-duration workouts, to begin with. Then, you can gradually increase the intensity, span, and frequency of the workouts. It will allow your muscles, lungs, and heart to slowly acclimatize to new levels of activity. You must also consult a trainer to make sure that you are performing the exercises correctly and avoiding the risk of injuries.

To begin with, opt for shorter workouts and leave 1-3 days of rest between working out the same muscles. You can slowly increase the anaerobic exercise duration.

Best Anaerobic Exercises You Can Try

  • Sprints – Sprinting means running at your top speed for a short duration. This anaerobic exercise is different from running as it is much faster. Typical sprints vary between 100m to 800m in 3 minutes or less.
  • Push Ups – Push Ups are an upper body exercise where your body is in the prone position with your palms on the ground, below your shoulders, and the balls of your feet on the ground. Then, you move your body up and down by bending and straightening your arms.
  • Pull-ups – A pull-up is an upper-body exercise where the body dangles from a bar or similar object. Then, you pull up your body by flexing your elbows and using your upper arm strength.
  • Squats – Squats are a type of resistance exercise that is often a part of anaerobic exercise for weight loss. In this exercise, you start from a standing position, then lower your hips while flexing your knees, and then stand back up.
  • Bench Presses – A bench press is a weight training exercise in which you press a weight upward while lying on a bench. You should start this exercise with lower weights and slowly increase the weight and anaerobic exercise duration after sufficient training.
  • Jumping Ropes – Rope skipping is an exercise where you skip over a rope that you swing around your body. This exercise may spark the debate of anaerobic vs. aerobic, but it can be both depending on the speed and intensity at which you perform it.
  • Burpees – A burpee is a push up followed by leaping in the air. It is a popular form of anaerobic exercise for weight loss and is often a part of high-intensity interval training.
  • Planks – A plank is a core-strengthening exercise in which you have to maintain a pushup-like position for the maximum amount of time possible.
  • Swimming Or Biking Sprints – Sprints of swimming or biking entail performing the said exercise at the fastest speed possible for a short duration. This modification turns these exercises into aerobic exercises.

How To Combine Exercises To Make A Workout?

Research indicates[2] that adults require at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of high-intensity activity every week for optimal fitness. Alternatively, a combination of exercises that amounts to the same is also a suitable option.

Instead of being confused about anaerobic vs. aerobic, you can pick a few exercises from both categories for your daily workouts. You can also choose different anaerobic workouts each day to exercise different muscle groups. If you are a beginner, consult a trainer for developing a suitable workout plan as per your strength and stamina. They can tell you the appropriate anaerobic exercise duration and exercise combinations for your fitness level.

Fitness level

Top Benefits Of Anaerobic Exercises

The top benefits of anaerobic exercise include the following:

  • Muscle gain – We tend to lose muscle mass as we grow older, but anaerobic workouts help with muscle gain and compensate for the same.
  • Fat loss – High-intensity workouts may trigger faster fat loss than aerobic workouts. Therefore, anaerobic exercise for weight loss is quite popular.
  • Better mood – All forms of exercise, including anaerobic workouts help to improve your mood and reduce anxiety, stress, or depression.
  • Improved Stamina – Anaerobic workouts improve your endurance, muscle strength, and overall stamina. Hence, they are helpful for athletes and regular people alike.
  • Better Cardiovascular Health – Anaerobic workouts reduce blood pressure, improve heart health and circulation, and thereby improve your overall cardiovascular health.
  • Lower Cholesterol And Blood Sugar – Anaerobic workouts help to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels and can reduce your risk of diabetes, stroke, or cardiovascular diseases.

HIIT Workouts With Anaerobic Exercise

High-intensity interval training or HIIT workouts combine short periods of high-intensity exercises with intermittent periods of rest. These workouts usually last between 10 to 20 minutes and claim to boost metabolism and burn fat. Since the typical anaerobic exercise duration is small, these exercises are commonly incorporated into HIIT workouts. Some popular HIIT exercises are burpees, squats, and jumping ropes. These workouts are particularly beneficial for individuals who do not find enough time for longer workouts during the day but still want to maintain their fitness and weight.

What Are The Risks Of Anaerobic Exercises?

Anaerobic exercise may pose the following risks:

Risks Of Anaerobic Exercises
  • Risk Of Injury – Some anaerobic workouts require specific poses and techniques, and improper techniques may cause an injury. Therefore, it is recommended to perform your workouts under the supervision of a qualified trainer.
  • Risk Of Exertion – Anaerobic workouts involve high-intensity exercises that may cause exertion. Therefore, as a beginner, you should start with easy workouts and slowly increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of the workouts once your body develops the required stamina. Additionally, if you are suffering from any medical conditions, you must consult your doctor before adding a new exercise to your workout regimen.

FAQs About Anaerobic Exercise

It is recommended to perform anaerobic workouts at least two days a week. You must also make sure to exercise different muscle groups each time and decide a frequency that works for your stamina.

Yes, anaerobic workouts can help you lose weight. They encourage fat loss and improve your metabolism during and after the workout, thereby leading to weight loss.

Anaerobic vs. aerobic energy systems show that aerobic exercises may help you burn more calories during the workout, but anaerobic workouts provide more afterburn and help you lose fat more quickly.

Anaerobic training relies on short, fast, and intense exercises to burn glucose stored in the muscles for energy. It derives energy from glycogen in the muscles by first converting it into glucose, and then breaking down the glucose to lactic acid using two-step lactic acid fermentation.

Examples of anaerobic training exercises include weight training, HIIT workouts, calisthenics, sprinting, and jumping rope. You can combine these in your workouts or alternate between them.

Burpees, pushups, pull-ups, squats, sprints, bench presses, sprint biking, and planks are all types of anaerobic training.


An anaerobic exercise is a type of exercise that uses glucose stored in the muscles for energy, unlike aerobic exercises that use oxygen for energy. It involves shorter durations of fast or intense exercise that helps to improve your stamina, muscle and bone strength, metabolism, and mental health. These exercises may help you burn fat faster than aerobic exercises and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke. Thus, you can combine them with aerobic exercises in your daily workouts to reap the benefits of both.