Anaerobic Exercise and Weight Loss

When trying to lose weight and keep it off, a combination of reducing calorie intake and exercising to burn calories produces the best results. Aerobic exercises such as swimming, biking, dancing and walking are usually recommended to help with weight loss efforts because they can burn plenty of calories. However, anaerobic exercises can also play a role in weight management. If you carry extra pounds, the first step is to speak with a physician before starting any exercise regimen to ensure its safety.


Understanding Anaerobic Exercise

Exercise can be placed into two categories: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercise refers to activities such as walking and jogging that require oxygen to be sustained for a long period. If the muscles do not get the oxygen they need, fatigue will set in. Anaerobic exercises are short bursts of activity, such as weight lifting, sprinting or any rapid burst of hard exercise that does not require the presence of oxygen, says the University of Iowa. Both types are important for overall health, and both can aid in weight loss efforts.

Interval Training

Anaerobic activities are usually done to improve power and/or speed and when combined with aerobic activities, they can help burn calories. Activities such as sprinting and jumping rope cannot be sustained for long periods by most, but because of their intensity, they can boost caloric expenditure. For example, when walking, run or sprint as fast as possible for short bursts, then return to a walking speed. For the duration of the workout, alternate back and forth, alternating aerobic walking with anaerobic sprinting. As endurance builds, add in additional short periods of anaerobic activity. Because a byproduct of anaerobic activity is lactic acid, go easy at first and build up gradually to avoid excessive muscle soreness.

Strength Training

Anaerobic exercise can also be used to describe a strength training or weight lifting workout. While aerobic-type activities burn more calories than weight lifting, muscles need more calories to survive than fat does. Weight lifting done at the right level will strengthen the muscles, which in turn will increase metabolism, so that more calories will be burned by the body, even at rest, reports the American Council on Exercise. For weight lifting to be anaerobic, the weights used must be heavy enough to fatigue the muscles on the 10th or 12th repetition. Using lighter weights or doing a lot of reps is not anaerobic. The goal is to perform strength training two to three days a week on nonconsecutive days, training each major muscle group to fatigue. If working to fatigue, a day of rest should be taken between strength training workouts to allow the muscles to recover.

Exercise Considerations

For best results, it is important to change up the routine from time to time. Doing the same workout the same way will eventually lead to the body becoming accustomed to the workout, and this can slow weight loss. Adding in anaerobic-type activities can add variety to the workout and shake up the routine just enough to produce results. With strength training activities, exercises can be done using machines, tubing, weighted balls and body weight to add variety.


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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or