With the recent COVID-19 outbreak leaving thousands of gym-goers across the country heartbroken and gainz-less, many have resorted to creative at-home workouts. Videos of athletes of every caliber using cases of water, book-filled bookbags, paint cans, and more have been taking over social media. However, what if there was a way for you to ditch those milk jugs when wanting to get in a good workout? Well, you’re in luck! Experts say that the benefits of anaerobic exercise are simply unmatched. It is an amazing and time-efficient form of exercise that can often be done anywhere!
But before you run off into the sunset announcing your love for anaerobic exercise to the world, let’s go over what anaerobic exercise is, exactly, as well as some of its top health benefits.
What is Anaerobic Exercise?
Unlike aerobic exercises, or moderately-paced movements, anaerobic exercises are much higher in intensity. Given this higher intensity, anaerobic exercises depend only on the glucose stored in your muscles, through a process called glycolysis, to be fueled. This is due to the shortage in your oxygen supply that occurs when you exercise very intensely and the body’s immediate need for stored energy (i.e. glucose)..
Whew … that was a lot of biology.
To put things in layman terms, anaerobic exercises consist of maximal effort for short bursts of time. Some examples of anaerobic exercises include jumping rope, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), resistance training (RT), sprinting, powerlifting, and racket sports. Given the many benefits of anaerobic exercise, most people who indulge in this type of fitness have a common goal of quickly transforming body fat into lean muscle, among other things. But *pause for dramatic effect* what are these many health benefits, you ask? Let’s go over the top 5 you should know about!
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Top 5 Health Benefits of Anaerobic Exercise
- Burns Fat Quickly
One of the main benefits of anaerobic exercise is how rapidly it burns through body fat. When exercising, the body will first seek fuel from the calories that come from recently consumed carbohydrates—allowing you to burn off that cheeseburger and shake you just ate. However, to begin burning the stored energy supply (or fat) within your body for fuel, you must be depleted of those recently stored carbohydrates first. Further, the more effort you put into your workouts, the more calories you will burn.
Anaerobic exercise allows the body to burn through calories and get to your body fat more quickly. This is because your heart rate is able to increase faster due to how high-energy anaerobic exercise is, causing the amount of effort and therefore the number of calories you burn to increase as well.
Anaerobic exercise also allows you to burn calories even after you have finished working out through something called the “afterburn effect”. Up to 95% of the calories you burn actually occurs after you have completed your anaerobic training. This allows the body to continue burning fat while recovering from the extreme effort you have just put in from anywhere from 10 to 72 hours post-workout.
When compared to aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise is the most efficient in burning body fat. In fact, in one study that measured the effects of aerobic and anaerobic exercise on the body composition of obese men, it was concluded that anaerobic exercise was the most effective in reducing body fat.
- Builds and Sustains Lean Muscle Mass
Another health benefit of anaerobic exercise is its effectiveness in building and sustaining lean muscle. Since they are fueled by energy pulled from the glucose stored in your muscles, anaerobic exercises break down your muscles at an increasing rate. This allows for lactic acid to build up in your skeletal, or lean, muscles, which, although causes soreness, leads to the rebuilding of stronger muscle tissue. After all, the saying “no pain, no gain” didn’t just come from anywhere.
Anyways, this, in turn, increases your anaerobic metabolism, which is the process of exerting energy in strenuous exercise. With its increase, more energy is exerted from the lean muscles, causing a more taxing workout for them that will eventually lead to stronger muscle tissue and increased muscle mass.
Building up lean muscle is particularly important because it not only prevents complications with obesity but also positively affects your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), or the number of calories you burn at rest, as well as protects your bones from becoming weak and thin.
- Improves Cardiovascular Health
Anaerobic exercise also greatly improves your cardiovascular, or heart, health. Anaerobic exercise burns through low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or the “bad” cholesterol in the body that causes the arteries around the heart to clog when in excess. This allows for uninterrupted blood flow to the heart, keeping it as functional as possible in the process. This also helps to prevent hypertension, or high blood pressure.
So remember, 30-40 minutes of anaerobic exercise every other day will keep the doctors away!
- Prevents Common Diseases and Poor Health Conditions
Anaerobic exercise directly contributes to decreasing your chances of getting common diseases like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, obesity, and even some cancers!
One study done by exercise physiology experts reported that high-intensity exercise could counteract tumor growth in the body due to its fundamental process called glycolysis. When tested on both animals and humans, anaerobic exercise proved much more effective in preventing cancer growth than moderately-paced exercise.
The improvements of blood flow to the heart and bone strength in the body from anaerobic exercise also prevents you from developing other health diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
- Increases Overall Athleticism
And last but not least, anaerobic exercise increases your overall athleticism, namely your speed, agility, and endurance.
Your anaerobic capacity, or your short-term power source from non-oxygen pathways in the body, is what has allowed you to finish strong in those relay races, sports games, or biking sessions. As a result of using it to its max during high-intensity exercise, your body’s ability to produce energizing power quickly improves, thus improving your athleticism.
In terms of speed and agility, anaerobic exercise improves your VO2 max, or the body’s maximum capability of consuming oxygen during incremental exercise. Your VO2 max is what allows you to run faster or work harder during intense fitness sessions. The higher your VO2 max, the better your ability to perform during anaerobic exercise.
Given the explosive nature of anaerobic exercise, performing at maximal effort for short bursts of time decreases the body’s recovery time. This improves your overall endurance, as being able to endure highly-intense exercise for consecutive short bursts translates to being able to endure moderately-paced exercise for longer amounts of time.
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