Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise (With Table)

Physical Exercise is a must for anybody who is looking to take care of their health. Physical activity reduces your risk of a heart attack by improving your cardiovascular health, helps manage stress and helps you manage your weight.

Physical exercise is categorised into two main categories – aerobic and anaerobic. This classification is done on the basis of the energy source taken used by the muscles to contract.

Aerobic Exercise vs Anaerobic Exercise

The main difference between Aerobic exercise and Anaerobic exercise is that Aerobic exercises depend on the inhalation of oxygen by the body as a source of energy. Whereas, for anaerobic exercise, the muscles depend on other alternate sources of energy.

Aerobic exercise is dependent on oxygen intake as an energy source. This type of exercise generally incorporates larger muscle groups for longer durations, is more steady and the muscles rely on aerobic metabolism to function.

Anaerobic exercise does not depend on oxygen intake for energy. This type of exercise is a highly intense physical activity for a short duration. The muscles do not directly depend on the oxygen breathed in for energy.

Comparison Table between Aerobic exercise and Anaerobic exercise

Parameters of Comparison Aerobic Exercise Anaerobic Exercise
Dependence on oxygen intakeAerobic exercises are highly dependent on the intake of oxygen as an energy source. to extract ATPs from amino acids, fatty acids and carbohydrates.Anaerobic exercises do not depend on inhaled oxygen as a source of energy.
Intensity of exerciseAerobic exercises are generally less intense in nature in comparison to anaerobic exercises. Anaerobic exercises are very intense on the targeted muscle groups.
Duration of exercise.Aerobic exercises generally consist of a longer exercise duration between breaks.Anaerobic exercises rapidly switch between exercises and break intervals to increase intensity.
Production of ATPsProduction of ATPs is significantly higher as muscles depend on Adenosine Triphosphates for energy. Production of ATPs is very less as muscles are not dependent on Adenosine Triphosphates for energy.
Muscle Groups IncorporatedAerobic Exercise generally incorporates larger muscle groups for a longer and more rhythmic durationAnaerobic exercise targets very specific muscles/muscle groups during exercise.

What is Aerobic Exercise?

Aerobic exercises are a type of exercise that focuses on incorporating larger muscle groups. The exercises are highly rhythmic in nature. They are comparatively less intense and the exercises last for longer intervals.

Aerobic exercise is a type of exercise that is highly dependent on oxygen intake to supply muscles with energy. The oxygen is used to extract ATPs from amino acids, fatty acids and carbohydrates.

Certain examples of Aerobic exercises include cycling, hiking, dancing, jogging, running, swimming and even walking.

Aerobic exercise has shown humongous benefits towards increasing Cardiovascular health. It has also shown a small, yet significant decrease in total cholesterol of the body.

However, the effect of aerobic exercise is limited to the frequency and quantity of the exercise. Studies show that 1 to 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise over 2-3 times a week is optimal.

Frequency of exercise higher than that has shown no significant change when it comes to mortality risk.

What is Anaerobic Exercise?

Anaerobic exercise is a type of exercise that generally targets a very specific muscle or a set of specific muscles. It is an intense physical activity that lasts for a very short duration.

Anaerobic exercises depend on energy sources within the contracting muscles. They do not use inhaled oxygen as an energy source.

This process in particular produces a lesser amount of ATPs in comparison to aerobic exercise. Instead, it results in the production of high amounts of lactic acid.

Examples of anaerobic exercises include sprinting, HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), power-lifting etc.

Similar to its counterpart, anaerobic exercise also greatly benefit your cardiovascular health.

Anaerobic exercises can be highly taxing on the body. It is generally recommended for an average individual to perform anaerobic exercise about 2 to 3 times a week, with a day of rest in between.

However, some recent speculation has also come to light about this form of exercise.

An Iranian study concluded that anaerobic exercise may lead to lesser production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH).

Main Differences Between Aerobic Exercise and Anaerobic Exercise

  1. Aerobic exercises are those types of exericses that are highly dependent on the inhaled oxygen as an energy source for the msucles to contract. Anaerobic exercises, being the opposite, are not much dependent on the oxygen intake to be used as an energy source.
  2. Aerobic Exercises focus on larger muscle groups whereas Anaerobic exercises target specific muscle groups.
  3. Aerobic exercises last for a longer duration while focusing on the larger muscle groups. Anaerobic exercises generally last for a very short duration in comparison.
  4. Anaerobic exercises are highly intense on the targeted muscle groups and thus, can only be maintained for a shorter duration. Aerobic exercises, on the other hand, are less intense and thus, can be maintained for a much longer duration.
  5. Aerobic exercise results in the production of a large number of ATPs extracted from amino acids, carbohydrates and fatty acids. As anaerobic exercises are not dependent on inhaled oxygen, they produce a significantly lesser amount of ATPs and in turn, produce a high amount of lactic acid.


Both these types of exercises are beneficial to your cardiovascular health and overall physical health. Along with improving your physical health, they are also great reducers of stress and anxiety and are a must in today’s highly sedimentary lifestyle.

Each type has its own pros and cons. Therefore, these exercises should be performed with a balance for optimum benefits, preferably after a consultation with a medically-trained professional.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5329739/
  2. https://www.oapub.org/edu/index.php/ejep/article/view/1535