Exercise is an important component of becoming and maintaining good health. You may think if you are walking a few times a week for 30 minutes that you are meeting the threshold of being physically fit. Walking is a great exercise but if that is all you do, you will be missing out on other types of exercise that are just as important.
Many of us are not involved in a well-rounded physical fitness program. In reality, there are 4 types of exercise each of us should incorporate daily to achieve true physical fitness – aerobics, strengthening, stretching and balance.
When we strike a balance of including all 4 types of exercise our bodies will respond in better endurance, strength, stability and flexibility making our everyday lives that much better.
1. Aerobic Exercise
Anytime you are getting your heart rate elevated above resting and keeping it elevated for a sustained length of time, you are doing aerobic exercise. All of that heavy breathing is giving your heart and lungs a necessary workout and is enhancing your endurance.
Aerobic exercise has a whole host of health benefits not to ignore – lowers blood pressure, burns body fat, reduces blood glucose levels, decreases inflammation, relaxes blood vessel walls, raises HDL or “good” cholesterol and puts you in a better mood.
This type of exercise is the gold standard for also helping to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer, and depression.
Examples of aerobic exercise are brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, dancing, and roller blading.
2. Strength Training
Ranking right up there with aerobic exercise is strength training. The muscles we enjoy in our youth will not stay that way forever. In order to prevent loss of muscle mass, lifting weights must be part of a regular exercise routine.
If you’ve never attempted weight training, don’t be intimidated. Once you start it is really very addictive because the results you see and feel will make you want to keep doing it. Besides preserving and making our muscles stronger, strength training can stimulate bone growth, lowers blood glucose, aids with weight control, improves balance and posture, and reduces stress and pain in the lower back and joints.
When strength training is done regularly, you will begin to notice a difference in your stamina and ability to carry groceries, garden and lift heavier objects that are not challenging anymore. Seek the advice of a physical therapist or personal trainer who can design a strength training program individualized for you.
Have you ever noticed how frequently a cat will stretch during the day? We should do the same because if we don’t our muscles and tendons will lose flexibility as we age. Loss of flexibility spells disaster as this increases our risk for muscle cramps and pain, muscle damage, strains, joint pain, and makes us more susceptible to falling. Even just bending over to tie your shoe or pick something up off the floor can be a major ordeal once flexibility is gone.
Over the course of each day, do some kind of stretching movements several times. Routinely stretching our muscles makes them longer and more flexible. This increases your range of motion, reducing tightening in areas such as our shoulders and lower back helping to reduce pain and risk of injury.
Join a beginning yoga or Pilates class to get started or check out beginners online videos if you prefer the comfort of your own home.
Probably one of the least utilized exercises yet one of the most important as we grow older is practicing balance. When our balance is good we feel more steady and grounded on our feet helping to prevent falls. When our eyesight fades, our hearing goes or muscles in our legs weaken, having good balance is a must.
Incorporating balance into a daily routine is necessary and it is never too late to improve upon the balance we already have. Programs of tai chi or yoga are good moves that can boost our balance giving us more secure stability.
Typical balance exercises can include alternating standing on one foot for a few seconds or walking heel to toe with your eyes open or closed. Physical therapists are a good resource for developing a balance exercise routine to get you started.