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What Is the Difference Between Calisthenics & Aerobics?

author image Morgan Rush
Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.
What Is the Difference Between Calisthenics & Aerobics?
Aerobics increases heart rate and burns calories without using much resistance. Photo Credit: dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images

Calisthenics and aerobics both contribute to overall fitness to help your body get stronger and leaner while burning calories. Although calisthenics and aerobics might both include repetitive motions and actions that get your heart pumping, the specific activities involved differ. Additionally, calisthenics relies more heavily on using body weight for resistance as compared to aerobics.

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Aerobics: Benefits and Activities

Aerobics can improve your cardiovascular health, decreasing the risk of heart disease and lowering blood pressure. You’ll improve the function of your lungs and burn calories to help with weight management or weight loss. Examples of low-impact aerobic activities include swimming, bicycling, walking, rowing or using an elliptical trainer. Examples of high-impact aerobic activities include running, jumping rope or completing step aerobics. To increase the challenge of your aerobics activities, you can increase the speed or the duration of the exercise.

Calisthenics: Benefits and Activities

Calisthenics involve simple body movements that use your own natural body weight for resistance in order to increase strength. While strengthening muscles, calisthenics can also improve cardiovascular health via increased heart rate. Calisthenics isolate different body areas for improvement; for example, situps can create stronger abdominal muscles, while pushups tone the pectoral muscles. Other examples of calisthenics include squats and leg raises for quad strength.

The Role of Resistance

The major difference between aerobics and calisthenics is resistance. Because aerobics frequently requires little or no resistance, it’s possible to sustain exercise for longer amounts of time. For example, you might go for a 60-minute power walk, but it’s unlikely that you would be able to perform pushups for 60 minutes straight. The elongated exercise time allows you to work your heart for extended periods and burn calories. Calisthenics relies on body weight for resistance, meaning that you complete each activity for shorter periods of time but with greater intensity.

Comparisons and Considerations

Although both aerobics and calisthenics can be performed almost anywhere and for little to no cost, calisthenics has the additional benefit of limited risk for joints compared to heavy weight lifting or the repetitive motions associated with some aerobic activity. However, the simple, regimented activities associated with calisthenics might become tiresome over time; some individuals prefer the meditative qualities associated with a long run or the music and social atmosphere of an aerobics class. Rather than choosing only aerobics or only calisthenics exercises, you could combine elements of both to receive maximum benefits.

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