Anaerobic exercise is any activity that doesn't require the use of oxygen. Typically, anaerobic exercise covers weight training, high intensity cardio drills such as sprinting and any other short, sharp, intense forms of exercise. Although many women automatically opt for aerobic exercise such as jogging or swimming when trying to lose weight, anaerobic exercise could be just as beneficial and has many hidden benefits.
Anaerobic Energy Systems
Strength training is considered an anaerobic exercise. When lifting weights, your body uses two different energy systems. The adenosine triphosphate-creatine phosphate, or ATP-CP system, uses your body's stores of ATP to supply energy, This energy system is the first used during any activity and is prominent in highly explosive activities that require maximum force exertion, such as jumping as high as you can, or performing one to five heavy reps on any exercise. As this system only lasts for six to 10 seconds, the next energy system to kick in is the glycolytic system. This uses carbohydrate as its main fuel and lasts for 20 to 60 seconds -- a prime example being a 200-meter sprint.
A common myth within the training industry is that of the fat burning zone. The premise is that long, slow aerobic training sessions performed at a lower heart rate cause your body to burn more fat, which is one of the reasons women often are advised to stick to cardio-based activities. This is not correct, however, claims strength coach Rachel Cosgrove in her article "The Final Nail in the Cardio Coffin." Although a higher percentage of the calories you burn may come from fat when training at a low intensity, high intensity anaerobic exercise actually burns more calories overall. Anaerobic activities such as weightlifting also have a powerful effect on your metabolism, according to Dr. Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico. Anaerobic exercise gives a much greater metabolism boost than aerobic training, meaning you continue burning calories and fat after you've finished your session.
Despite the fact some people consider anaerobic training activities such as weightlifting and sprinting to be riskier, more advanced activities and high-impact exercise can be extremely beneficial. Weight training not only builds muscle, but also strengthens your bones and joints, reduces your risk of arthritis and prevents injuries, according to MayoClinic.com. Anaerobic cardio will boost your fitness levels and provide a welcome challenge if you're more used to steady state work, too.
Anaerobic work should be performed at near maximum intensity. When lifting weights, choose a heavy load that you can lift safely and perform sets of three to five reps to work your ATP-PC system, or go slightly lighter for five to 15 reps to train the glycolytic system. Perform anaerobic cardio in an interval style -- 15 to 45 seconds at all-out intensity, followed by one to two minutes at a lower intensity. Anaerobic exercise can be very demanding, so it's worth keeping one or two lighter aerobic sessions in your program each week, too, to boost calorie burn without tiring yourself out.
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