While all types of exercise support mental and physical health, there are actually four types of physical workouts that can be incorporated into your exercise routine to boost overall fitness and prevent injury. These include aerobic, strength, balance, and flexibility exercises. While some activities, such as yoga, incorporate flexibility, strength and balance, those who perform only one kind of physical activity may want to consider changing up their routine. Each type of training has its own benefits, and integrating all four may not only eliminate boredom, but will further improve your overall and long-term health.
To be aerobically fit, the body’s cardiovascular and muscular systems must be able to provide the necessary energy to sustain large muscle group activity for an extended period of time. Aerobic training increases the amount of oxygen the muscles burn in order to utilize fat and carbohydrates for energy. As the muscles become more efficient at consuming oxygen, endurance increases. For example, continuous activity during swimming, dancing, running, brisk walking, hiking, cycling or aerobics classes at an intensity level that can be maintained for at least 30 minutes, and performed at least three, and preferably more, times per week, would classify as aerobic fitness. For those just beginning an aerobic program, walking for 15-20 minutes three days a week is a good place to start.
Benefits of aerobic or endurance training for overall health may include:
- Increased respiration and cardiovascular efficiency
- Improved body composition and decreased body fat
- Increased muscle, ligament, joint and bone strength
- Improved cardiac output, resulting in increased blood volume, distribution and delivery to muscles
- Slowed resting heart rate
- Decreased risk of developing coronary artery disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome
- Reduced levels of stress and anxiety
- Improved mood and positive outlook
Strength training or resistance exercise builds lean muscle mass and challenges both mental and physical prowess. Particularly important to weight loss and maintenance, strength training is not just for weight lifters, professional athletes or those wishing to build muscle bulk. As a key component of overall fitness, strength training helps to enhance lean muscle mass and preserve muscle strength, which naturally diminish with aging. Strength training does not require a gym membership or expensive equipment, as many exercises can be done at home or while traveling with little or no equipment. Body weight exercises, such as squats, abdominal crunches, or pushups; lightweight resistance tubing; and free weights including the classic barbells and dumbbells, all provide the benefits of strength building. Two or three 20-30 minute sessions a week can significantly improve strength. Be sure to start with a light weight that you can lift or push at least eight times, and incrementally add weight or increase the number of repetitions once the existing load becomes comfortable. Those new to resistance training can benefit from working with a trainer initially to learn correct form and technique.
Benefits of strength training for overall health may include:
- Increased muscle strength to support everyday activities
- Improved insulin sensitivity and deceased visceral fat, thereby assisting prevention and management of type 2 diabetes
- Improved physical performance, movement control, cognitive abilities and functional independence
- Improved bone mineral density
- Enhanced cardiovascular health
- Lowered blood pressure and triglyceride levels, decreased LDL cholesterol and improved HDL cholesterol
- Improved management of chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, obesity, depression, diabetes, and heart disease.
Important for everyone, especially athletes and older adults at risk of injury from falls, balance training improves one’s ability to control the body’s position and enhances joint stability during movement. Balance tends to erode with time, particularly with inactivity. In addition to normal challenges of aging, good balance is a concern for those with chronic illness such as arthritis, osteoporosis and Parkinson’s. Simple exercises to improve balance can be easily incorporated into daily life. Beginners can start by standing on one foot for a minute at a time, and can practice shifting weight from one leg to the other while standing in line or waiting. Yoga, tai chi and dance classes all improve balance as well as stability. Those new to balance exercises should be sure they are on a flat, stable, non-slippery surface and have something or someone nearby for support if needed. Once you have mastered beginning balance exercises, try them with your eyes closed, and work towards stabilizing the body under increasingly difficult circumstances.
Benefits of exercise to improve balance may include:
- Reduced risk of falls
- Improved ankle stability
- Reduced risk of lower extremity injury
- Improved posture
- Improved spatial perception and proprioception, the body’s sense of its position in space, particularly in relation to limb and joint movement
- Improved sports performance
Long, lean, well-stretched muscles can more easily reach their full range of motion, improving athletic performance and daily functional abilities. The best way to achieve and maintain flexibility is to stretch regularly. Muscles that lose their suppleness due to inactivity are more prone to muscle tears, aches and stiffness. Lengthening the muscles helps to prevent injuries, back pain and balance issues. Flexible muscles and joints can more easily achieve a full range of motion, helpful for sports as well as for reaching, bending and stooping during daily tasks. Stretching before exercise is no longer recommended. Activities that lengthen and stretch the muscles are best performed after a five to ten minute warm up or as a post workout cool down. Stretching warm muscles decreases muscle fatigue and soreness and helps to relax both the body and the mind.
Benefits of exercises to improve flexibility may include:
- Improved range of motion throughout the joints
- Improved mobility
- Decreased muscle resistance
- Improved body alignment and posture
- Reduced injury risk
Along with a healthy, balanced diet, complementing your regular workout routine by incorporating the missing strategies can increase your strength and flexibility, tone and build lean muscle mass, improve lung and cardiac capacity, and boost mood and overall wellbeing.
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The 4 Types of Exercise You Need to Be Healthy. https://www.livescience.com/55317-exercise-types.html
Fitness Exercises: Discover Its Types and Untold Benefits. https://www.consumerhealthdigest.com/fitness/types-of-fitness-exercises.html
Benefits or aerobic exercise. http://oregon.providence.org/location-directory/p/providence-mercantile-health-and-fitness-center/forms-and-information/ask-an-expert-the-benefits-of-aerobic-exercise/
Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/strength-training/art-20046670
Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22777332
The benefits of balance training. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/The_benefits_of_balance_training
Benefits of flexibility exercises. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/benefits-of-flexibility-exercises