When discussing exercise, you’ve probably heard terms like cardio, strength-training or resistance. If you’re not an exercise pro – and let’s face it – most of us aren’t, all of these terms can be confusing. While you don’t have to be an expert, it’s helpful to know the different types of exercise and how you can incorporate them into your life to stay healthy and to meet your weight loss goals. Although you may have some types of exercise that are your favorite, the best exercise regimen generally includes all of the different types of exercise.
Cardiovascular, which is also called aerobic or endurance, exercise involves using the large muscles in your arms and legs to increase your heart and breathing rate. Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It also improves your heart and lung health overall. Because cardiovascular exercise tends to be higher impact than other types of exercise, it’s also generally the best type of exercise for burning calories.
Examples of cardiovascular exercise include running, walking, swimming, biking, stair-climbing, and using the elliptical machine. Aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of some type of cardiovascular exercise on most days of the week.
Many people, especially women, shy away from resistance training for fear of “bulking up” but this type of exercise can actually do the opposite. Resistance exercise does increase muscle mass, which increases strength and endurance; but this doesn’t mean you’ll look bigger. In fact, because muscles are denser than fat, building muscle can actually make you leaner.
There are two main types of resistance exercises – free weights and weight machines – but you can also use your own body weight for resistance training by doing things like squats and push-ups. Incorporate resistance training two to three times per week, making sure to rotate muscle groups.
You’ve heard that you need to warm-up and stretch your muscles before and after exercise, but do you actually do it? If not, you should. Flexibility exercises, like stretching, warm up your muscles and joints, which makes you less likely to get injured. Regularly engaging in flexibility type exercises can also increase your range of motion and improve balance. It’s best to do some type of flexibility exercise every day.
Remember, when stretching, you should feel tension, but it should not be painful. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds, but don’t bounce. Bouncing can actually cause small muscle tears that increase your risk of injury.
Relaxation exercises are increasing in popularity as people begin to realize that staying healthy requires you to exercise your mind as well as your body. Relaxation exercises, like yoga or tai chi, use a combination of focused breathing, meditation, and balance to improve mental health, reduce stress, decrease blood pressure, and calm your nerves. These types of exercises can also increase flexibility, improve balance, and strengthen the muscles, especially your core.
Don’t get us wrong, though. These exercises can be a challenge and you’ll see some amazing aesthetic results as well.
What are your favorite exercises? Do you incorporate each type of exercise into your weekly routine? If not, which type of exercise are you excited to try next?