Cardio, anaerobic, and aerobic exercise explained

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In 1969 Dr. Kenneth Cooper wrote the book Aerobics and coined that word to describe a form of exercise. Before that, the word aerobic was more often used to describe a type of metabolism. Aerobic metabolism utilizes our energy stores in conjunction with oxygen, while anaerobic metabolism uses energy stores without oxygen.

Both metabolic pathways are working all the time. The aerobic pathway is predominant at rest or at lower intensity activities such as the beginning of a run or picking flowers. The anaerobic pathway predominates while doing demanding activities such as sprints or strength training and is crucial for survival in fight-or-flight situations.

Cardio exercise is exercise that maintains an elevated heart rate at a range of 60% to 85% of one’s maximum heart rate. Can strength training have a significant cardiovascular component? It can; it depends on how your workout is structured. Warm-up sets do not present great demands on the cardiovascular system or the muscles for that matter. Intermediate intensity sets, time resting between sets, and set up time for the next exercise will not be taxing to the cardiovascular system. In the course of an hour long workout there will be a significant amount of time where cardiovascular demands on the body are minimal.

The High Intensity Training (HIT) for strength we do at our Austin Strength Training facility involves a large cardiovascular component. At the end of the first exercise your body will be doing all that it can to accommodate the demands placed on the cardiovascular system – the heart rate increases, arteries dilate, venous return increases, and blood volume per beat of the heart increases.

That first exercise is followed with a series of strength training exercises addressing all the major muscle groups. People of any age can do this workout. You build up to this workout slowly. Each week you lift a little more or a little longer and take a little less time between exercises. With the facilitation of a personal trainer the workout takes less than 30 minutes; it really can’t be longer unless you pace yourself, i.e. exercise at a lower intensity.

 The chart of 64 year old man. The average heart rate of 74% is well within the cardio range.

The chart of 64 year old man. The average heart rate of 74% is well within the cardio range.

While the cardiovascular demands are high, [See chart] the long list of cardiorespiratory benefits makes it worth the effort. Best of all anaerobic exercise produces endorphins1. Just like a runner’s high, when the workout is over you’ll experience the deeply relaxed state that results when your body produces endorphinsIt is a great state to be in and one you will look forward to attaining each week.

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1553453