The Four Main Types of Exercise and Why They Matter
We all know exercise is good for us, but what about the different types of exercises. What is it important to do one type of exercise versus another. Or, what are the benefits of each. It’s important for our body to stay in motion, but it’s also important to change up our workout routines to ensure all muscles get attention and to provide balance to how we move.
Exercise falls under four primary groups: aerobic (endurance), strength, flexibility, and balance. To receive the most health benefits you can, exercising in all four types is crucial as each tackles different abilities.
Aerobic exercise works your cardiovascular system and raises your heart rate. The most common exercises--running, swimming, dancing--fall under this category. Aerobic exercise helps to keep your heart pumping blood efficiently. It also keeps your lungs healthy and reduces your risk of cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood fat levels.
Strength exercises focus on working your muscles by using resistance. These are important for weight loss as it increases lean muscle mass, which burns more calories than other types of exercise. It is important to consistently engage in strength exercise as you age, because people lose muscle mass over time. Benefits include increasing lean muscle mass, bone density, muscle strength, and your metabolism rate. It decreases your risk of osteoporosis and risk of injury.
Flexibility exercises are straightforward—it’s all stretching. However, there are actually two types of stretches—static stretches and dynamic stretches. As the names imply, you do not move during static stretching, and do move during dynamic stretching. Reaching your arms up towards the sky would be a static stretch, whereas arm circles would be a dynamic stretch.
Dynamic stretches are recommended for warm-ups, while static stretches are best for cool-downs. Increased flexibility is an obvious benefit, but these stretches also reduce your risk of injury and so it’s important to never skip a warm-up or cool-down!
The fourth type of exercise might not come to mind as easily, but it’s much simpler than the others—balance. This exercise is most important for those who are older, pregnant, and or who have gained or lost a lot of weight. Tai chi, yoga, and pilates all help with balance, as well as simpler exercises like standing on one foot or using a stability ball. Being able to balance well prevents falls, helps proprioception (being able to know where you are in space, which declines with age), and reduces injury.