Is Hockey An Aerobic Or Anaerobic Sport?

Posted on February 6, 2020 by Dan Kent
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Hockey is a high intensity sport. Skaters play the game in short shifts that quickly call upon and use up energy. But a hockey game also usually lasts for one hour. Does this mean that hockey is an aerobic or anaerobic sport? Is it one or the other? Or possibly both? This guide will fill you in on the answer.

Hockey is primarily an anaerobic sport, though it uses elements of the aerobic system as well. Hockey players use high levels of energy in short shifts on the ice before changing lines. This high intensity stop-and-start style is characteristic of anaerobic exercise. But with only short periods of rest before returning to the ice, players activate the aerobic system by not fully recovering over the duration of the game.

What Are Aerobic And Anaerobic Exercises?

Aerobic exercise increases your heart and breathing rate. This type of exercise maximizes the amount of oxygen in your blood.

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Examples of aerobic exercises include running, swimming, and cycling. These activities are performed at a relatively consistent energy level throughout.

Anaerobic exercise uses your full effort in shorter periods of time. Here, your body relies on stored energy rather than oxygen.  

Examples of anaerobic exercises include jumping, lifting, and sprinting. These activities are performed with spurts of effort and with intervals between action.

Aerobic vs Anaerobic?

Aerobic sports require participants to maintain a similar level of effort for the duration of the activity. Periods of rest are uncommon for the main activity of aerobic sports.

Endurance is a key for athletes playing aerobic sports.

Aerobic sports include swimming, basketball, soccer, and running.

Anaerobic sports require participants to expend high levels of effort in a shorter time span. Periods of recovery, or intervals, are common in these sports.

Power and strength are central to anaerobic sports. They also put a great deal of stress on the body.

Anaerobic sports include hockey, football, baseball, weightlifting, and sprinting.

What Makes Hockey An Anaerobic Sport?

In hockey, players take short shifts of between 45 seconds and 2 minutes. During these shifts, players expend anaerobic energy.

In other words, players hit the ice for their shifts and they immediately start to skate. Doing so calls upon stored energy from their bodies. Professional athletes can skate up to 30kph.

At the end of a shift, players return to the bench (intuitively or with a signal from the coach (read How players know when to change lines. ). On the bench they recover their anaerobic system before returning for the next shift.

Depending on how many players are on a team, skaters usually play 15 to 30 minutes of ice time in a 45 to 60-minute game. This means that the anaerobic system is in action on-and-off for this hour of exercise. Recretional players tend to play longer shifts while professionals take shorter but more energy intensive shifts on the ice.

Hockey’s Aerobic Elements

Hockey is a unique sport in that it also activates elements of aerobic exercise.

Because players take short shifts and then quickly return for another shift, a level of aerobic energy is active during the game.

Players have high heart and breathing rates while they’re on the ice and while resting on the bench. Endurance is needed to consistently return to the ice for the next shift and perform at peak levels.

As a sport that uses both aerobic and anaerobic energy, hockey workouts can aim to target abilities used in both systems.

Hockey uses aerobic endurance and anaerobic power. The sport’s anaerobic exercise qualities come from the stop-and-go nature of the game.

Players give it their all while they’re on the ice, using the anaerobic system.

Only momentary recovery occurs between shifts, sustaining a level of the aerobic system. Hockey combines the aerobic and anaerobic systems through its short shifts, powerful lower-body workout, and duration over the course of a game.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada,

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