If you get bored easily, you’ll be pleased to hear exercising keeps you away from the ho-hum. That’s because there are different types of exercise — and each offers different benefits. Mixing them up is essential. It also makes staying healthy a lot more interesting.
“Every type of exercise has benefits, so try to choose a variety when creating your workout routine,” says Christine Hagemeyer, senior general manager with Unum Fitness in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
This is the fifth installment of a new WorkLife series, Healthy Living Basics for Everyone. The sanely paced plan helps you with nutrition, exercise and lifestyle and includes a mental component that helps clarify goals and identify what might hold you back.
To make things simple, let’s break down exercise types into four main categories. Lots of specific activities fit into those categories, and some fit more than one. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it will help orient you.
1. Cardio (cardiovascular exercise or aerobic exercise)
Fitness activities: basketball, biking, dancing, hiking, soccer, tennis, running, skating, skiing, swimming, walking briskly. Any sport that raises your heart rate enough to make carrying on a conversation tough counts.
What it looks like in everyday life: chasing a toddler, carrying groceries up stairs, waxing your car.
Why you need it: “Cardiovascular exercise helps strengthen the heart and lungs as well as decrease the risks of multiple cancers,” Hagemeyer says. The American Heart Association will even help you figure out your target heart rate.
How much you need: 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity (brisk walking, for example) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (running, for example), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2. Strength training (anaerobic exercise)
Fitness activities: lifting weights, hiking with a backpack, mountain biking, rock climbing, using resistance bands.
What it looks like in everyday life: moving furniture, mowing the lawn (if you have a manual power and push it uphill). Any time you’re lifting or lowering something heavy — meaning you can’t do it repetitively with ease — you’re building strength.
Why you need it: “Strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis,” Hagemeyer says. It also builds muscle, which means you’re stronger, and your metabolism is higher (read: your body needs more fuel, which means you can eat more).
How much you need: The answer will depend on whether your activity is focused only on strengthening muscles or also involves cardio. In other words, you could mountain bike for three hours straight, building core and leg strength, but it’s probably not a good idea to lift weights for three hours straight.
3. Stretching (flexibility exercise)
Fitness activities: well… stretching. Also: practicing most yoga types because most types stretch muscles, and practicing Yin yoga, which targets the body’s dense connective tissues. Tai chi.
What it looks like in everyday life: again… stretching. You’d have to be intentional about building this one into a non-fitness activity.
Why you need it: “Stretching is great for circulation, and prevents injuries,” Hagemeyer says. It also helps your joints and increases your ranges of motion.
How much you need: Twice a week, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Shoot for 10-20 minutes per session. There are several types of stretching (passive, dynamic, static), which we’ll discuss in a later post.
4. Balance work
Fitness activities: slacklining, Tai chi, yoga.
What it looks like in everyday life: lengthening your reach to a cabinet while standing on one leg, navigating a curb so you don’t step in a puddle of rain, standing on the subway or an airport tram.
Why you need it: Balance is particularly important as we age and bones become thinner . The better your balance is, the less likely you are to fall, decreasing the risk of breaking bones.
How much you need: As much as you can get. There’s no limit on this one.
Journalist Mitra Malek regularly researches and creates content related to nutrition and wellness for Yoga Journal, for which was an editor. Learn more at www.mitramalek.com.