People exercise for different reasons. Whatever your reason for exercise, the best way to ensure all-round fitness and health is to aim for a mix of the 3 main types:
- Aerobic exercise
- Strength or Resistance exercise
- Flexibility exercise
These types of exercise benefit your health in different ways:
1. Aerobic Exercise
For a healthy heart, you need to do aerobic exercise. This is any activity that uses oxygen, raises your heart rate and makes you slightly breathless. Not only does it keep your heart, lungs, blood vessels and muscles healthy, it also improves your fitness levels.
Of the many types of aerobic exercise available there will be one that suits you:
- Walking: This is a great type of aerobic exercise for all ages. It puts minimal strain on your joints – so it’s good if you’re just starting to exercise, or have joint problems
- Cycling: This is good for improving your fitness and helps to strengthen your upper leg muscles. It also helps with balance
- Swimming: This exercises your whole body and doesn’t stress your joints. You can move at your own pace and gradually increase how much effort you put in
- Aerobic Classes: These involve routines of exercises with an instructor guiding you through, and the music often helps make your workouts fun. Great if you need to go with friends to maintain motivation
- Running: This burns more calories than walking and improves your fitness. You hardly need any equipment beyond a decent pair of running shoes
- Football or other team sports: These are an excellent way to stay motivated because the team relies on and supports each other
Adjust the intensity of your exercise depending on your goal. Start gently and gradually increase your effort level. As you get fitter, you may need to work harder to raise your heart rate and feel breathless – this is a good sign that your body is becoming more efficient at using oxygen.
2. Strength or Resistance Exercise
Including strength training in your exercise programme may help improve your posture and give your body a more toned look. Another bonus is that muscle burns more calories than inactive tissue, even when you’re resting – so building up muscle will help you stay a healthy weight.
Strength training involves moving your muscles against some kind of resistance, which is why it is also called resistance training. You can use rubber bands, free weights (such as dumb-bells), weight-lifting machines or even simply your own body weight. Aim to do some strength training two or three times a week, and work all the major muscle groups in your body. Don’t just go for the heaviest weight you can – find the right level that allows you to do a set of 8 to 12 repetitions.
Although you could join a gym or lift weights at home, lots of everyday activities, such as carrying shopping or gardening can help tone and strengthen your muscles.
3. Flexibility Exercise
If you don’t regularly stretch your muscles, they are at risk of becoming shorter and less elastic. This reduces how much you can move your joints and increases stiffness and your risk of injuries. Aim to do some flexibility exercises for a few minutes every day. These should stretch all the major muscles in your upper and lower body.
Yoga, Pilates and tai chi include many exercises that focus on suppleness and flexibility. Your body is gently eased and stretched into different positions, and you then hold these positions while concentrating on your breathing. You will be surprised at how regular stretching will increase your flexibility and strength; and how it will also help you to relax, and improve your circulation, balance and posture.
To read about the Health benefits of Exercise please click here
To find out if you’re doing enough exercise for your age click here
To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio, and see if this is a risk to your health click here
To read about Exercise and Arthritis on the Arthritis Care website please click here
To read more about the physiological relationship between breathing rhythms and emotions click here
To read more about the physiology of how individual anxiety levels influence respiratory rates in physical load and mental stress click here