Exercise seems like the most obvious thing in the world. Push-ups, sit-ups, any time you push yourself and break a sweat, feel your lungs burn, your muscles approach that point where they seem to nearly give out. Exercise is familiar, even if it’s seldom practiced. According to the CDC, while at least fifty percent of adults are active enough to meet the aerobic requirements they need to be healthy, only twenty percent are on track for meeting both aerobic and muscle-building requirements in order to be considered healthy. So, if exercise is such a common thing, why is it actually… relatively uncommon?
Exercise is a multi-faceted thing, so it’s best to try to understand the various mechanisms and how they work. Broken down into three different approaches, exercise can be thought of as aerobic, anaerobic and flexibility. From weightlifting to sprinting to yoga, any form of exercise falls into one of these three categories. So what makes them so distinct?
Aerobic Exercise Burns Fat
Aerobic exercise is most plainly thought of as those that require heavy breathing. Running, cycling, swimming, these tasks are made up of repetitious movements that done in quick succession for long periods of time elevate the heart and breathing rate. Consequently, these are most beneficial to cardiovascular and respiratory health. What’s more, much of fat-burning is the process of oxidation, meaning any exercise in which you find you’re breathing harder than normal is likely to be one in which you are burning calories.
Aerobics most frequently relies on the coordinated effort of the larger muscle groups. Consequently, routine aerobic exercise contributes to overall strength and fitness. It contributes to overall balance and stamina. It even adds to a longer life expectancy.
Increase Metabolism with Anaerobics
Anaerobic exercise is less defined by how fast your breathing or how hard your heart is pounding and more by the resistance you’re using to build strength. Anaerobic exercise tends to be far more specific in the targeted muscle group, if not targeting one exclusively. This leads to the swelling or growth of the muscles. Large biceps or well-defined pecs are often the product of this sort of exercise.
During anaerobic exercise, muscle fibers wear and split, growing the size of the muscle. The development of the muscle leads to an acceleration of the resting metabolism, meaning the body needs more energy to sit there and do nothing than it did previously.
Which of these is better? While there are definitely people who dedicate themselves to either aerobic or anaerobic exercise, there seems to be little evidence that either is more beneficial than the other. So be in that twenty percent that gets adequate amounts of both.
Yoga May Be as Good as Running
Of course, less thought of as exercise yet no less beneficial is flexibility training. From basic stretching to yoga, this practice works to keep muscles moving efficiently and comfortably. Flexibility training can promote balance and decrease the chance of injury. Without proper maintenance of your muscles, your aerobic and anaerobic gains can mean very little. The muscle fibers can shorten or tighten, especially following the strenuous activity of exercise.
In fact, one study suggests that yoga, perhaps the most high-profile form of stretching, discovered the practice may have all the benefits of aerobic activity. Regular yoga participants were found to enjoy benefits to cholesterol levels, body weight and blood pressure. These findings make yoga an ideal alternative for recovering from an injury or looking for a low-impact supplement to their current workout routine.
This variety in exercise strategies allows for almost everyone to lead an active lifestyle, regardless of their concerns or limitations.