One thing is for sure when maintaining a healthy body, exercise is key. Getting 30 minutes of exercise every day has been the prescribed minimum for years, but you may want to do more than that when trying to reach fitness goals or lose weight. Exercise has almost countless benefits, such as improving mood, sleep, sexual health, and reducing the risk of heart disease and other adverse effects of aging. Being active also boosts memory and brain function and is widely reported to decrease depression and anxiety.
When trying to yield the maximum benefit, it can be challenging to know the best plan for your weekly exercise regimen. There are different exercise types that you can choose from to best suit your needs. The four types of exercise recognized by the US Department of Health are endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Doing more than one of these exercises is a fantastic idea as you can combine the unique benefits of each explained below!
Endurance training is exercise that dictates how long we can last when doing any form of physical activity. Endurance is also known as our aerobic capacity, or how long we can sustain periods of increased heart rate. How much oxygen our muscles need to perform activities can be improved with endurance training. This type of exercise also improves the circulatory system's overall health, which includes the lungs, heart, and blood flow.
Benefits of endurance training include being able to exercise for longer periods of time and using oxygen more efficiently in muscles. Endurance exercise improves the overall health of our cardiovascular systems and can leave us feeling more energized throughout the day. Additionally, endurance exercises such as running have a significant impact on mental health as they can release endorphins and boost moods.
Endurance training isn’t all marathons and CrossFit, it can be done at nearly any age or ability level. Lower impact training such as yard work or light aerobics training can be excellent choices for those with injuries or seniors.
Some of our favorite endurance exercises are jogging or walking briskly since they both come so naturally and without the need for any equipment. Just a pair of sneakers and you’re good to go!
Swimming and cycling are great for those with joint injuries while dance classes and sports are a great way to socialize while getting your exercise.
Many endurance exercises involve repetitive motions and without proper form and careful planning, can cause overtraining (cumulative stress) injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, or overtraining syndrome.
Another consideration is that your respiratory endurance may increase to handle more exercise than what your musculoskeletal system is ready for so try to maintain a gradual increase in the duration of your exercises rather than rapidly adding on laps, miles, or reps.
Lastly, many health conditions mean endurance training should be done carefully. Respiratory conditions, heart disease, and asthma can lead to attacks and dangerous shortness of breath. Ensure you know all your conditions and never push too far past your limits. Your best bet is to consult your physician before beginning a new exercise routine.
The target amount of endurance exercise depends on your comfort level, but a baseline recommendation is that you do about 150 minutes of aerobic or endurance activity per week to see tangible benefits to your health. Endurance is a building block for fitness that helps with all other types of exercise.
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Strength training is what many people first think of when they imagine fitness and getting into shape. Weightlifting is the classic example of this, and images of heavily muscled fitness fanatics often come to mind. However, strength training doesn't need to be too strenuous, and it can benefit any level of athlete.
Strength training has the straightforward advantages of helping us to lift heavier objects and grow muscle.
But, strength training also helps to improve bone density, burn fat, and lower blood pressure. As a result, strength training is vital for our bodies to be in peak condition at all ages.
Want to go even more minimal? There are also plenty of effective bodyweight exercises. (click to read)These are all excellent ways to improve strength and build muscle.
Of course, we’re not against going to the gym to get your workout. They provide access to machines, weights, and other equipment necessary for some exercises as well as trainers who can provide guidance on proper plans and biomechanics.
One of the most important safety tips is to learn proper form. Our bodies have developed to move in certain ways so care should be taken to make sure you’re working with your body.
It’s tempting to focus on numbers and use improper form to get that last rep. Do not do this! As the Mayo Clinic says “The better your form, the better your results” If you’re unsure whether your form is good, have a trainer or other fitness specialist, evaluate it.
It’s also relatively easy to overextend when lifting weights, which can lead to strained muscles and joints and other injuries.
Our best recommendation is to have a workout buddy. It’s always more fun to do things with someone and when you’re lifting heavier or near your limit and they can provide a spot for you. When starting out, make sure to err on the side of doing too little until you gauge your body's current level of strength.
The target amount of strength training depends on your goals and current fitness level, but for beginners, it’s ideal to aim for around two or three days per week. This will provide you with a full day to recover after every workout.
A balanced beginner plan will likely include three sets of ten repetitions per exercise and rotate different exercises on different days. When browsing different plans, you’ll see variations on sets and reps per goals like building muscle or burning fat, but these recommendations are focused on general health.
When combined with other exercise forms, strength training is a powerful way to become healthier and improve your performance in other areas of exercise and life in general.
Balance is a crucial part of overall fitness and is one of the most overlooked aspects of health. Having balance enables us to stand, walk, run, and perform any other exercise we may do. Balance also helps us to focus, build up stabilizing joints and muscles and can be especially useful to practice for older adults to prevent falling.
Benefits of balance training can include improving posture, balance, coordination, and technique when it comes to other exercise types.
Adults who have lost some balance ability will significantly benefit from balance training as it will help them to maintain mobility and an overall better quality of life. Additionally, it will help them to prevent falls, a leading cause of bone and joint injuries according to the CDC.
Improving balance can be done simply by standing on one foot or walking heel to toe or to double up you can sit on a stability ball while working at your computer.
Our favorite balance exercises are Yoga and Tai Chi because they combine aspects of meditation, deep breathing, and balance training.
Best yet, you can take a quick Yoga break a few times a day or get together with a few people at the park. There are so many possibilities!
For those of us who are starting out or are a little older, It is recommended that you have something to hold on to when starting a balance exercise routine to prevent falling.
When doing Yoga, as with strength training, be mindful of your limits and ramp up slowly. Pushing yourself too hard in the beginning can lead to wrist or lower back injuries. This article from Aaptiv outlines the 6 most common yoga injuries and how to avoid them.
Aim to do some balance exercise daily. Rotating through the exercises like walking heel to toe, standing on one leg and a couple of yoga poses daily over the course of a week is a healthy way to build balance safely.
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Flexibility is the last and certainly not least exercise form that helps keep our bodies in a resilient, elastic shape. Flexibility improves our range of motion, physical performance, and resistance to injury. Our bodies become more flexible as we stretch muscles, making them more supple.
Flexibility exercises can provide improved posture and balance, less pain, and more resilient muscles. Flexibility is a cornerstone of fitness because it helps us complete other exercises with a greater range of motion while preventing soreness or overextension.
Stretching is the go-to activity for flexibility. There are actually two main types of stretching static and dynamic. Static stretches can be good for general flexibility while dynamic stretches are a great complement to your exercise routine. Dynamic stretches get your blood flowing and are increasingly recommended to prevent injuries. Find out more about the differences here.
Hip circles, arm circles, and lunges are an easy way to get a full-body stretch at the beginning of the day, especially before other exercises.
Yoga is another great flexibility exercise. Don’t be intimidated by depictions of people turning themselves into pretzels. There are many beginner routines that still provide excellent benefits.
Pay careful attention to your body and be mindful of any undue pain.
Go slow, especially when it comes to extending your range of motion. Pushing too far too quickly can lead to damaged muscles and joints. Basically, don’t try to go from barely being able to touch your toes to advanced yoga poses inside of one week or even one month.
With the previously mentioned safety considerations in mind, aim to do some flexibility exercises daily. Ideally, choose ones that complement the other aspects of your exercise routine. For example, Healthline has this list of dynamic stretches for runners.
The four exercise types come together to complete a full-body fitness model. As we can see from each type's benefits, they build on one another to reach our body's potential. Strength and weight training require endurance, just as aerobic exercise requires flexibility and balance. These exercise types are dependent on each other to build healthy, resilient bodies.
Disclaimer: The Best in Nature blog is written for informational purposes and not to be taken as medical advice. If you are worried about your immediate health, please seek the help of a medical professional.