Types of exercise
People exercise for different reasons. Maybe you do weight training to build up your strength, yoga to relax (moderator's note: the Islamic stance on exercising yoga will be discussed later on this thread
) or football to improve your fitness. Each of these benefits your health in different ways so whatever your motivation for exercising, the best way to ensure all-round fitness and health is to do a mix of the main types. These are aerobic, strength and flexibility exercises.
This article describes the different types of exercise and the health benefits of each.
For a healthy heart, you need to do regular 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 and muscles healthy, it also improves your fitness levels. Combine aerobic exercise with a balanced diet and you will be on the right track to maintaining a healthy weight
There are many types of aerobic exercise available so there is bound to be one that suits you.
- Walking is great aerobic exercise for people of all ages. It puts little strain on your joints so it’s good if you’re just starting to exercise.
- Cycling is good for improving your fitness and strengthening your upper leg muscles. It helps with balance and is also a good way of getting around more quickly than walking.
- Swimming exercises your whole body and doesn’t stress your joints. Just make sure that you put in enough effort to increase your heart rate otherwise it doesn’t count.
- Aerobics involves routines of exercises set to music with an instructor to guide you through and help make your workout fun. Why not make it a weekly thing and go with friends to keep you motivated?
- Running burns more calories than walking and improves your fitness. You need hardly any equipment and you can vary your routes to make it more enjoyable.
- Team sports such as football are an excellent way to stay motivated because the players rely on and support each other. There are plenty of team sports that need little equipment and they also give you a good opportunity to make new friends.
Aim to do aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity for 150 minutes (two and a half hours) a week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Moderate means your breathing is faster, your heart rate is increased and you feel warmer.
If you’re trying to lose weight
or really improve your fitness, you may need to up your effort levels and do vigorous exercise. This is when your heart rate and breathing increase considerably, and you probably won’t be able to talk without pausing for breath.
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.
Strength (resistance) exercise
Including appropriate resistance training in your exercise programme will help to improve your strength, posture and balance, and give your body a more toned look. Plus, muscle burns more calories than inactive tissue, even when you’re resting, so building up muscle will help you to stay a healthy weight – another bonus.
Strength training involves moving your muscles against some kind of resistance, which is why you will hear it called resistance training. You can use rubber bands, free weights (such as dumb-bells), weight-lifting machines or 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. And don’t just go for the heaviest weight you can – find the right level at which you can do a set of eight to 12 repetitions of an exercise. If you haven’t done this sort of exercise before and are aiming to use heavy weights, it’s important to get professional advice so you don’t put yourself at risk of injury.
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 too.
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, all of which reduce your quality of life. Aim to do some flexibility exercises for a few minutes every day that 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. You gently ease and stretch your body into different positions, and then hold these while concentrating on your breathing. You might be surprised at how much they can increase your flexibility and strength. They will also help you to relax, and improve your circulation, balance and posture.
- Walking, running and swimming are excellent aerobic activities that need very little equipment – you can do them alone or with friends.
- To keep your muscles and bones strong, aim to do strength training activity two or three times a week.
- Try gentle bending and stretching or yoga every day to help prevent injuries and improve how much you can move your joints.