Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise Part 3

Silhouette of man and woman running jogging together into sunset

Effective Exercise (Aerobic vs. Anaerobic?)  Part 3

Aerobic exercise does have a place in our exercise repertoire, however, anaerobic or high intensity interval training (HIIT) provides a more efficient means of exercise with faster and more profound results.  As a side note here, it is important to relate that this type of exercise is not for compromised individuals, especially with underlying or manifested cardiovascular issues because of the stress of the exercise.  Before trying this program, it is important to have a medical evaluation and, if necessary, a cardiac stress test to make sure your heart is functioning normally.  HIIT requires a maximal effort over a relatively short duration follow by a rest time in multiple intervals, hence the name of high intensity interval training.  A typical profile of exercise would include using a stationary upright or seated bicycle or elliptical machine.  The program as described by Dr. Mercola works as follows:


  • 3 minute warm-up at a low level at a low pace and resistance.
  • At the 3 minute mark, begin an all-out effort of exercise as hard as you can at a higher level of resistance.
  • Continue for 30 seconds of all-out effort.
  • At the 30 second mark, decrease your intensity to a low pace and lower the resistance.
  • Continue this cycle for a total of 8 repetitions. Start at the 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17 minute marks, ending at their 30 second marks.
  • At the end of 8 repetitions perform a cool down at low pace and low resistance for 3 more minutes.

It is important to remember to try to give your maximum effort while performing the exercise.  You will be out of breath and you will most likely, sweat profusely.  Your heart rate will increase and continue to increase with each consecutive repetition.  It is very helpful to use a heart rate monitor to help track your heart rate.  Your heart rate will likely reach and surpass your calculated maximum heart rate by 5-10 beats.  Your maximum heart rate is found by subtracting 220 minus your age.  For example, if you are 40 years old then subtract 220 minus your age and get a maximum heart rate of 180 beats per minute.  You will want to watch how quickly your heart rate recovers to a slower pace.  This is a good indicator of your conditioning.  This type of workout can be difficult to say the least, so be sure to allow for adequate time between training sessions to prevent over-training and burnout.  Leaving 2 days between sessions should help sufficiently with recovery.  Do not do HIIT more than 3 times per week.

If you are just starting out it is fine to scale back the workout.  For instance, you may only be able to finish 2 repetitions initially, and then as your fitness levels increase, you can add more repetitions.  Also, if you are really just a beginner, then use intermittent slow walking and faster walking intervals or stationary biking geared down with slower and then medium intensity on the faster cycles.  You will still reap some of the benefits of HIIT.  If you are more of an athlete, or as your conditioning progresses, you can increase the intensity of your HIIT.  Some ideas include, swimming, sprinting, and even sprinting uphill. Be careful however, and make sure your conditioning is at the proper level, and you warm-up and stretch appropriately to avoid injuries.  It is very easy to tear a hamstring or pull a groin muscle, especially if you are not used to sprinting.

Here is a link to watch Dr. Mercola and Phil Campbell, innovators of HIIT,

See the final portion of this series, Part 4, to understand all the benefits of HIIT and stimulation of HGH.



Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise Part 2



Disadvantages with aerobic training include spending longer and longer times training to increase metabolism once cardiovascular efficiency has been achieved and the relative increase of wear and tear on the joints with prolonged stress.  Continued wear and tear on joints can lead to micro trauma, chronic inflammatory responses and pain, and potentially degenerative joint disease or arthritis.  Steady state activities, such as running, take the variation out of exercise and eventually can compromise an individual’s adaptation to physical stress by recruiting only slow twitch, Type 1 muscle fibers.  Fast twitch (Type 2a and Type 2b) fibers can begin to atrophy.  In prolonged scenarios, the loss of fast twitch muscles can effect glycogen metabolism (the body’s source of energy) by promoting lack of insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a very important hormone in our bodies that regulates carbohydrate metabolism.  Insulin resistance is a major problem in our country today with rampant increases in Type2 diabetes mellitus, mainly due to high carbohydrate diets and lack of exercise.

In contrast, interval training or high intensity interval training (HIIT) profoundly uses Type 2a and Type 2b muscle fibers due to the quickness, intensity and contractile nature of the exercise.  The “burst-like” activity increases and shocks your body’s metabolism, burning more calories while performing the exercise and a continuance of calorie burn after exercise with the repair phases, just like other fast twitch muscle exercises, like lifting weights.  This increase in metabolic rate causes an expansive amount of glycogen depletion in all of your muscles, leaving only some storage in your liver.  This is a very important concept regarding HIIT.  This type of training promotes insulin sensitivity vs. insulin resistance.

When there is no demand for fast twitch muscle activity, glycogen (energy storage form of glucose) stores are full, like lounging on the couch or sitting for 12 hours at work during the day.  As your glucose intake continues to increase with meals high in refined carbohydrates, simple sugars, and high fructose corn syrup, a positive energy balance is established, causing fatty acid synthesis for triglyceride formation for energy storage.  Over-consumption of glucose and constant stimulation of the potent hormone, insulin, from your pancreas causes insulin resistance leading toward diabetes.  By using fast twitch muscle stimulation with HIIT and depleting glycogen stores, your body become insulin sensitive decreasing the need for insulin and preventing diabetes.

HIIT also has a tremendous influence on a very important hormone, human growth hormone or HGH.  Unfortunately, as we age our levels of HGH decrease.  After age 30, our levels of HGH drop precipitously leading to a condition called somatopause in both men and women.  This is similar to menopause in women where aging leads to a drop in sex hormones and a host of conditions, like osteoporosis, loss of muscle mass, and depression.  Further drops in HGH levels are also experienced by all of us in our daily lives, especially during periods of stress and cortisol production, loss or improper amount of sleep, and sedentary activity.  Higher HGH levels help us with the retention and production of muscle cells, loss and breakdown of fats, anti-aging, and a decrease in insulin levels, promoting insulin sensitivity.  HIIT causes a “fight or flight” reaction and an epinephrine release that significantly bolsters levels of HGH anywhere from 500-750%!  This is a huge benefit!  Growth hormone keeps us young, keeps our weight under control, prevents disease, increases muscle mass, and makes us healthier and stronger.  Considering the shorter training times, the vast increases in HGH, and the promotion of insulin sensitivity, HIIT or anaerobic conditioning is a superior training technique.


See Part 3 of this series for an explanation on how to perform HIIT.  Part 4 will recap all of the benefits of stimulating growth hormone for the best type of conditioning,