Four Types of Exercise That Can Improve Your Health and Physical Ability
by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP
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Many individuals tend to concentrate on a single form of exercise or activity, believing it to be sufficient. Existing research underscores the significance of incorporating all four types of exercise—endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility—for comprehensive health benefits. Each type offers distinct advantages, and engaging in one type can enhance performance in others, while also minimizing monotony and the risk of injuries. Regardless of age, it is possible to identify activities that align with one’s fitness level and requirements.
Endurance activities, often termed aerobic exercises, elevate breathing and heart rates. These activities contribute to overall health, enhance fitness levels, and support the performance of daily tasks. Endurance exercises foster heart, lung, and circulatory health, potentially preventing conditions common among older adults, such as diabetes, colon and breast cancers, and heart disease. Activities that build endurance include brisk walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, biking, climbing stairs, and playing sports. Aim for at least 150 minutes of challenging activity per week, distributed throughout the day to avoid prolonged periods of sitting.
- Warm up with light activity before and after endurance exercises.
- Pay attention to your body, avoiding activities causing dizziness, chest pain, or discomfort.
- Stay hydrated during activities that induce sweating, unless otherwise advised by your doctor.
- Assess exercise intensity by gauging your ability to hold a conversation; moderate-intensity allows easy conversation, while vigorous-intensity limits speech.
Muscular strength significantly impacts independence and the ease of daily activities. Strong muscles support tasks like standing up from a chair, climbing stairs, and carrying groceries, contributing to improved balance and reduced fall risks. Strength exercises, sometimes referred to as strength training or resistance training, can involve weights or resistance bands. Begin with light weights or bands, gradually increasing intensity. Aim for strength exercises targeting major muscle groups at least twice a week.
- Maintain regular breathing during strength exercises.
- Consult with your doctor if uncertain about a specific exercise.
Balance exercises play a crucial role in preventing falls, a common concern for older adults. Many lower-body strength exercises also enhance balance. Examples of balance exercises include Tai Chi, standing on one foot, heel-to-toe walk, balance walk, and standing from a seated position.
- Have a sturdy support, such as a chair or a person, nearby during balance exercises.
- Consult your doctor if uncertain about the suitability of a particular exercise.
Flexibility: Stretching exercises enhance flexibility, making daily movements easier. Flexibility exercises include back stretches, inner thigh stretches, ankle stretches, and stretches for the back of the legs.
- Stretch when muscles are warmed up.
- Incorporate stretching after endurance or strength exercises.
- Avoid excessive stretching that causes pain.
- Maintain normal breathing during stretches.
- Consult your doctor if uncertain about specific exercises.
*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result. This information is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional. No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.