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Can Anaerobic and Aerobic Exercise Damage Your Body?

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This question about anaerobic and aerobic exercise damaging your body is an interesting one. It’s interesting because it’s like asking the question, “Can driving a car be damaging to your body?” Yes, there is always the potential for physical injury when you’re driving in a car. But if you exercise good judgment, follow the rules of the road, obey the speed limit and drive defensively, then you can eliminate most of the risk while enjoying the benefits. However, this doesn’t mean that you are completely protected from black ice in the winter, unseen potholes, road hazards, or unsafe drivers that come out of nowhere to create problems for you.

There is always a risk/benefit in every thing we do. Anaerobic and aerobic exercise is no different. The real question is how to design an anaerobic and aerobic exercise program that reduces the potential risks and maximizes the inherent benefits! Certainly getting a medical checkup from a qualified health professional is a good starting point. They can help determine if your heart and cardiovascular system are in good working order.

Getting help from a qualified personal trainer is also an excellent idea. They can help you design an exercise program that will complement your starting level of fitness while taking into consideration your fitness goals, objectives, and anatomical weak points to help prevent injuries. Additionally, they can help you adapt your program as your fitness level improves and provide motivation to stay the course.

There are plenty of articles on the internet addressing the above issues. In asking the question, “can anaerobic and aerobic exercise damage your body”, there are two areas that get very little attention. They are:

Free Radical Damage and Acid Alkaline Balance!

In my 25 plus years in the health and fitness industry, these two areas typically get little attention. Although both can be present in anaerobic and aerobic exercise, typically increased free radical damage would have a greater association to aerobic exercise. And, your acid alkaline balance would have a greater association to anaerobic exercise. I’ll first explain each issue and then provide a fitness tip that will help protect you from their potential damage. Let’s start with aerobic exercise and the increased potential for free radical damage.

Aerobic Exercise & Free Radical Damage!
Aerobic exercise means performing a fitness activity in which the vast majority of the energy needed to fuel the working muscles comes from aerobic respiration. Aerobic respiration converts oxygen and nutrients into the energy needed by the muscles and organs of your body. Aerobic respiration takes place in your cells and more specifically in the mitochondria of your cells. Your mitochondria are rod-shaped organelles. They are your energy factories. Through a complex chemical process your mitochondria utilize oxygen and nutrients to create the energy currency of your cells which is ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

Aerobic respiration is a very efficient and effective method for the creation of cellular energy. It typically helps the mitochondria of your cells produce about 15 times more energy than they would otherwise. Besides ATP, two of the end products from aerobic respiration is CO2 (carbon dioxide) and H2O (water). Your red blood cells pick up the CO2 which is expelled by the lungs and then pick up O2 in the lungs to bring back to the cells. This is a very efficient process in eliminating a waste product (carbon dioxide) while bringing back a much needed molecule for life (oxygen).

Because oxygen is used by the mitochondria to create cellular energy, these mitochondria also produce a very reactive free radical called superoxide. Superoxide is a major cause of cellular oxidative damage which can lead to degenerative diseases and accelerated aging. Biologically it is quite toxic and is used by your immune system to kill invading microorganisms. In experiments with mice were superoxide is left unchecked, it leads to gene mutations, liver cancer, muscular atrophy, cataracts, neurodegeneration, cardiomyopathy, and early death.

Fortunately, your body has a scavenging enzyme called superoxide dismutase that is extremely effective and efficient in neutralizing superoxide before it can damage cellular structures. Your body uses this antioxidant to counter the potential free radical damage from superoxide. In humans there are three forms of superoxide dismutase; one in the cytoplasm of the cell, one in the mitochondria of the cell, and one in the extracellular fluid outside of the cell. Each form is uniquely position to protect all aspects of a cell from superoxide free radical damage.

Your body obtains superoxide dismutase from the food you consume. Specifically, this enzyme is found in nearly all green vegetables. Raw or steamed vegetables are better at delivering this enzyme to the working cells of your body. This is because enzymes are destroyed at high cooking temperatures. Additionally, vitamin C and certain minerals like manganese and copper are also needed for the proper function of superoxide dismutase. A healthy diet that contains an abundance of vegetables and fruits will help meet this requirement. For those who don’t want to eat their fruits and vegetables, then there are superoxide dismutase supplements.

Superoxide dismutase converts the dangerous free radical superoxide into hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is then converted to oxygen and water by either catalase or glutathione peroxidase. In aging studies on animals there is a clear correlation between superoxide production and the rate of aging. Those animals, even when weight and size are adjusted for, that produce less superoxide and hydrogen peroxide live longer. Catalase is an enzyme found in most plant sources especially potatoes. Glutathione is your body’s master antioxidant so having good glutathione levels is important for a variety of reasons.

Fitness Tip for Aerobic Exercise & Free Radical Damage!

As you increase the intensity of your aerobic exercise program you increase the amount of energy your body produces which increase superoxide production. For most people this increased superoxide free radical production can be handled by your normal diet.

When your aerobic exercise program advances to higher intensities especially if you’re training for marathons and extreme sports, then you need to address this potential for superoxide free radical damage. The easiest way is to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables. As your caloric expenditure increases from the intensity of your aerobic exercises, then fuel your body with extra raw fruits and vegetables. You may even want to consider complementing this with a superoxide dismutase supplement. My suggestion would be to find one that also supplies catalase into your diet while helping you to replenish your ATP stores.

Anaerobic Exercise & Acid Alkaline Balance!
Unlike aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercises are short duration, high intensity exercises that require a large burst of energy in a short period of time. In this case the cells of the working muscles derive their energy from anaerobic respiration. Anaerobic respiration does not use oxygen for the creation of energy. In the cytoplasm of the cells, sugars are broken down to release only a small portion of their total energy. This is called glycolysis and only yields 8 molecules of ATP (the energy molecule for the muscle cells) and pyruvic acid. If oxygen was used and the whole process of aerobic respiration took place, then an additional 30 molecules of ATP would be produced.

Instead, what happens in short duration, high intensity exercises is that the demand for energy exceeds the supply. To try to meet this demand the body converts the pyruvic acid to lactic acid to get it out of the way so that more sugar or carbohydrate can be converted to ATP. As the lactic acid builds up, it changes the pH of the muscle tissue. As the tissue becomes more acidic a burning sensation increases in intensity and the muscle tissues begin to lose their ability to contract properly.

Most weight training or muscle building programs are designed to work the muscle tissue for a short duration and at a very high intensity. This creates muscle fatigue due to a build up of lactic acid. But this is not the only way the pH of your body is affected. Diet can also play a huge role in creating an acidic environment.

The primary energy source for muscle tissue during anaerobic exercise is carbohydrate in the form of stored glycogen in the muscle tissue or glucose in the bloodstream. Bodybuilders and weightlifters have been sold the idea that they need to limit their carbohydrate intake and drastically increase their protein intake.

This balance between carbohydrates and increased protein is an article by itself. The bottom line is that both carbohydrates and proteins need to be increased. Increased carbohydrate consumption is needed to help refuel and replenish the energy stores of the muscles. And, increased protein consumption is needed to help provide the amino acids needed to help the muscle tissue repair itself and grow to meet the demands of the exercise program. The problem lies in the choice of carbohydrates and proteins.

One area that gets little attention as it applies to health and disease prevention is the acid alkaline balance. I’ve written several articles on this balance as it applies to cancer. It is equally important to all other areas of wellness. Your body’s overall chemistry is meant to be slightly alkaline. Unfortunately, most people eat a diet that causes their body to be acidic.

When foods are digested or “burned” in the body they leave an ash byproduct. This ash byproduct can be neutral, acidic or alkaline depending largely on the mineral composition of the food. For optimal health and maximum resistance to disease, it is critical that your diet by overly alkaline. Some would go so far as to recommend an 80 – 20 or 4 to 1 ratio of four parts alkaline to one part acid. Unfortunately, this is just the opposite for bodybuilders and weightlifters. To increase their protein and carbohydrate intake it is recommended that they increase their food consumption utilizing the following foods:


Acid or Alkaline Ash











Beans (legumes)


Wheat Germ




Whole Wheat


Rice or Soy Milk


Whey Protein


As you can see from this list the only food item that will help to maintain a proper alkaline balance is whey protein. I left off chicken breasts, cottage cheese, eggs and yogurt because these four items can be found on both alkaline and acid forming tables. On a per ounce basis for protein intake, chicken would be best, followed by cottage cheese and then eggs and yogurt.

Most fruits and vegetables (except corn) are alkalizing foods. Chickpeas and peas are especially high in protein and fresh spinach and broccoli have moderate amounts of protein. Most fruits have very little protein content but are good carbohydrate sources.

Fitness Tip for Anaerobic Exercise & Acid Alkaline Balance!

If you’re into anaerobic exercises to help you increase muscle mass and definition, then you need to address your diet. Although the creation of lactic acid in your muscle tissues will affect your body’s pH, the larger factor in causing your body to become overly acidic is your diet. Use fruits and vegetables to replenish your carbohydrate stores instead of rice and wheat products. Certain vegetables can help you with your protein intake but your best source for protein will be whey protein. Mix your whey protein with a fresh fruit juice or frozen fruits to create a delicious smoothie. If you decide to use chicken or cottage cheese, then try to combine them with fresh vegetables to offset any potential acid ash.

I would also recommend that you eliminate your sport drinks and sodas. Most sport drinks are acidifying because of the sugar. All dark sodas are acidifying because of phosphoric acid. Instead, use a green juice or green fusion product to hydrate your body while helping to restore a proper alkaline balance. Additionally, a good green fusion product will provide needed nutrients to help facilitate muscle recovery and growth.

When you properly examine the increased free radical production in aerobic exercise or the increased potential for an acid alkaline imbalance in anaerobic exercise, one common theme shows up. It is your diet. In fact, your diet plays an overriding role in all aspects of your health, wellness, and aging.

Whether your concern is aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise, disease prevention, and or slowing down the aging process, you need to make a commitment to increasing your consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits. The greener and darker the vegetable the better! You will also do yourself a huge benefit if you replace dark sodas and sport drinks with either plain water or a good green fusion product mixed in water. The benefits will be noticeable.

Until next time may we both age youthfully!

Synergistically yours,

P.S.     As a convenience, I’ve also included links to the following Exercise articles:

Benefits to Exercise – Are There Any?

What Types of Exercise Benefit You the Most?

Fat Burning Exercises for Losing Weight!

Why Exercise and Hypertension Go Together!

5 Reasons to Exercise!

Core Strength Exercises Will Impact Your Overall Health!


Return from Aerobic Exercise to Exercise

Return from Aerobic Exercise to Aging No More (Home Page)



The information contained in this website and posted articles are for general information purposes only and never as a substitute for professional medical advice or medical exam. The information contained in this website and posted articles has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease without the supervision of a qualified medical doctor.

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