While we all know we should be healthier, unless we understand the 4 types of exercise and how to use them, it’s likely that we’re not working out as productively as we could be.
When thinking about exercise, most people probably conjure images of lots of physical activity, heavy breathing, sweat, and red faces… But this is only one type of exercise! To create a healthy body and mind, you’ll need to combine aerobic exercises with workouts that focus on strength, balance, and flexibility.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do 4 different workouts to maximize your fitness journey, however. Many workouts, such as yoga, combine multiple exercise types to provide you with a well-rounded routine that actively hits all 4 workout types.
Aerobic exercise is probably what most people think of when they imagine working out. These activities exercise your cardiovascular system, getting your heart rate elevated and making your breathing harder. Aerobic exercises reduce the risk of numerous cardiovascular diseases, including type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and can even reduce the risk of some cancers.
Examples of aerobic exercises include:
- Climbing hills or stairs
- Most sports such as tennis, basketball, or soccer
Strength training immediately brings up thoughts of bodybuilders and muscular individuals, but it’s not all about who can bench-press the hardest. Strength training is essential for a healthy body as it strengthens the muscles. This can help reduce injury in your daily life and is also great for weight loss and muscle gain… Lean muscles burn more calories than other types of tissue, and strength training is the best way to build more lean muscle mass.
You can complete strength training exercises using weights, resistance bands, or even your own body weight. Some examples of strength exercises include:
- Lifting weights
Using resistance bands (like the ones from Victorem) in a range of exercises.
When you’re young, it can be easy to overlook the importance of balance exercises. This type of exercise improves your ability to control and stabilize your body position throughout the day.
In particular, older individuals must take part in balance exercises to reduce the risk (and fear) of falling. Other people at risk of balance problems include those who have recently lost or gained a dramatic amount of weight or are pregnant. But even if you’re not considered at risk of falling, everyone can benefit from balance-focused workouts to improve your overall fitness and wellbeing.
Most senior centers and gyms offer a selection of balance-focused classes, and a physical therapist can also help you establish your current balance capabilities to issue specific, targeted workouts. These exercises could include:
- Standing on one leg
- The “heel to toe” walk
- Tai Chi
- Balance ball exercises
The last (but not least) of the 4 exercise types is flexibility. Working on your flexibility can help you avoid injuries such as pulled muscles and improve the joints’ range of motion. This can improve your ability to practice strength training or aerobic exercises or even be useful in everyday scenarios such as tying shoelaces or looking over your shoulder as you back the car out.
Even if these problems sound far removed, as we age, our muscles shorten and tighten, making everyday activities more challenging. By regularly stretching and working on our flexibility at any age, we can help combat this symptom of aging and enjoy a much wider range of motion.
Flexibility exercises tend to be either static or dynamic, and using a combination is generally seen as the best way to enhance your flexibility and overall wellbeing.
Some examples of static stretches include:
- Hamstring stretch
- Static lunges
- Single knee rotations
- Side bends
- Shoulder stretch
Some examples of dynamic stretches include:
- Arm circles
- Leg swings
- Arm swings
- Lunge and twist
- Knee-to-chest walk
- High steps
- Side shuffle
The best workouts will incorporate a mixture of aerobic, strength, balance, and flexibility to create a well-rounded fitness plan that works your entire body: building strength and muscle, burning calories, and reducing the risk of injury.
A quality 4-exercise workout could involve:
- Walk briskly or run on a treadmill for 30 minutes (aerobic).
- Combine strength and balance exercises (for example, bicep curls while standing on one leg), or practice yoga.
- Cool down with a combination of static and dynamic stretches.
However you choose to work out, give a little thought to the 4 types of exercise to ensure you can actively create a body that’s as fit and healthy as you deserve.