Aerobic means ‘with oxygen’. So any exercise where you are able to maintain a controlled breath is aerobic. A controlled breath doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing an easy workout – you can have an elevated heart rate and a heavy breath and still be in control. These are exercises that you can maintain for an extended period of time (10 minutes or more). When you are doing aerobic exercise your body is using oxygen to produce energy (ATP). This is a very efficient and effective way to produce energy for the body and is a great way to burn calories.
Anaerobic means ‘without oxygen’. This means that you are gasping for breath and unable to maintain the effort for more than 45 seconds to a minute. Anaerobic exercises can include such exercises such as sprinting – but for those just getting back into exercise even fast walking can send you into an anaerobic state. When you are exercising anaerobically you are no longer using oxygen to produce energy (ATP). You are now using glucose stored in your muscles. One of the results of anaerobic exercise is lactic acid build-up in the muscles which ultimately makes you stop the exercise. Although anaerobic exercises do have their place – for those of you who are really focused on weight loss these types of exercises are not necessarily a major focus for you.