Anaerobic Exercise: Definition, Benefits & Examples

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  • 0:00 What is Anaerobic Exercise?
  • 0:55 Benefits
  • 2:05 Examples of Anaerobic Exercise
  • 3:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Donna Ricketts

Donna Ricketts is a health educator with 15 years of professional experience designing health and wellness programs for adults and children.

In this lesson, you will learn about anaerobic exercise and its health benefits. In addition, you will obtain knowledge of the various types of anaerobic workouts.

What is Anaerobic Exercise?

Anaerobic means without oxygen. Anaerobic exercise consists of brief intense bursts of physical activity, such as weightlifting and sprints, where oxygen demand surpasses oxygen supply.

While aerobic exercise relies on oxygen, anaerobic exercise is fueled by energy stored in your muscles through a process called glycolysis. Glycolysis is a method by which glycogen is broken down into glucose, also known as 'sugar' and is converted into energy. Glycolysis occurs in muscle cells during anaerobic exercise without the use of oxygen in order to produce energy quickly, thus producing lactic acid, which causes your muscles to fatigue.

Lactic acid is a by-product of glycolysis and forms when your body breaks down glucose for energy when oxygen is low. Participation in regular anaerobic exercise will help your body tolerate and eliminate lactic acid more efficiently.


In addition to helping your body handle lactic acid effectively, anaerobic exercise has great benefits for your overall health. Anaerobic exercise:

  • Builds and maintains lean muscle mass.
  • Protects your joints. Increased muscle strength and muscle mass helps protect your joints, which can protect you from injury.
  • Boosts metabolism. Anaerobic exercise helps boost metabolism because it helps build and maintain lean muscle. Lean muscle mass is metabolically active, so the more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn.
  • Increases bone strength and density. Anaerobic activity will increase the strength and density of your bones more than any other type of exercise, therefore decreasing your risk of osteoporosis.
  • Improves your energy. Your body relies on glycogen stored in your muscles as energy. Regular anaerobic exercise increases your body's ability to store glycogen, giving you more energy during intense physical activity.
  • Increases sports performance. Regular anaerobic exercise increases strength, speed and power, which will ultimately help improve your sports performance.

Examples of Anaerobic Exercise

Examples of anaerobic exercise include heavy weight training, sprinting (running or cycling) and jumping. Basically, any exercise that consists of short exertion, high-intensity movement is an anaerobic exercise.

Heavy weight training is an excellent way to build strength and muscle mass. You should only be able to complete three to six repetitions with the weight chosen until you reach muscle fatigue, or the inability to do one more rep.

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