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What is anaerobic exercise?

Henry S. Lodge, MD
Internal Medicine
One of the nice things about stepping out of nature is that most of us no longer need to kill to eat or worry about being killed. But when we did, we had an extra gear to call on -- ten seconds of raw power for what wildlife biologists call “escape or capture” moments.

You can push the glucose pace all the way up to about 85% of your maximum heart rate, where you hit the limit of your high aerobic capacity. That’s the fastest pace you can sustain, but for a few seconds you can go faster still. In a burst of youthful enthusiasm at the beach, you can sprint 100 yards to the top of a dune. You double your power output for those last 300 feet. Your heart is putting out 400% of its resting capacity, and still you go way beyond its ability to deliver blood and oxygen. You kick in the afterburners for that burst of power, dumping energy into your muscles in a controlled chemical explosion. You have gone anaerobic, your third metabolic gear, the realm beyond oxygen.

That’s not aerobic exercise, it’s not endurance training and it’s not something you should do every day, but it’s fun to play with. It’s anaerobic exercise, where there’s no oxygen in your muscles. It’s also your oldest metabolic pathway, dating back to the days when there was no oxygen on earth, before the bacteria invented mitochondria. It’s more primitive than aerobic metabolism: less efficient and less biochemically elegant, but far more powerful over short distances and a critical gear to have in the evolutionary transmission. It saved your ancestors’ lives, or let them end someone else’s, countless times over the past few billion years.
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The definition of the word Anaerobic is activities that do not require oxygen. Then you have Anaerobic threshold.This means at some point during a high-intensity actvity when the body can no longer meet its demand for oxygen and anaerobic metabolism predominates also called lactate threshold. Sprints and Hypertrophy training( Enlargement of of skeletal muscle fibers in response to overcoming force from high volumes of tension) or up to approximately 10 seconds of activity are some examples of anaerobic exercise.
Anaerobic simple means without oxygen.  Now for exercises it really doesn't matter what you do to get there.  No matter if it is a weight training or cardiovascular training.  All it is, is just training at a high intensity that your body is producing more co2 than it is bringing in oxygen.  Simple reducing your rest between set in weight training can help you achieve this.  Or you can work at a high speed on the treadmill, high level on the ellipical or stationary bike.  Now remember this type of training is not ment to be for a long term workout.  This type of training is short because of the lack of oxygen.
Joanne Duncan-Carnesciali, CPT,NASM Elite Trainer
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Anaerobic exercise refers to activities that utilize, for the most part, pathways to produce ATP without oxygen.  All of our bodies need to produce ATP in order for our muscles to contract.

High intensity sports such as football, rugby, power lifting, sprinting can be considered anaerobic sports as the manner in which ATP is produced is very different than the way ATP is produced in a long distance runner.  Both sports require the production ATP, however, the intensity of the sport is going to dictate whether ATP is produced with or without out oxygen at the cellular level.

This a complex question.  I am happy to discuss this offline if you would like.

Be well.
Pam Grout
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

Anaerobic exercise is exercise that doesn't require oxygen - or at least not more than you'd use sitting on a couch reading. Weight lifters, body builders, and other study, muscle-bound types focus on anaerobic exercise.

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The term anaerobic means without oxygen. Therefore, anaerobic exercises can be characterized by intense, repetitive movements where the oxygen we breathe in is not necessary to perform the exercise activity. An example of anaerobic exercise is sprinting.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.