What Are the Four Most Important Types of Exercises?

Exercise is the key to a healthy life.
Exercise is the key to a healthy life.

Exercise is the key to a healthy life. When it comes to exercise, it does not mean only the strenuous ones and exercising at the gym. Exercise also includes stretching and balancing acts.

Before you decide on any exercise plan for yourself for the entire week, you must talk to your doctor. Try to include exercises that focus on all aspects of your health. Research has shown that incorporating exercise from each of the four categories or types of exercises helps you in various ways rather than doing only a specific type of exercise. Doing each kind of exercise can help you do the other one in a better way.

Each type of exercise has different benefits. Variety in the exercises also reduces boredom and helps you stay motivated.

Here are the four kinds of exercises that you should know.

Endurance exercises

Endurance activities are often referred to as aerobics or cardio exercises. These involve exercises that increase your heart rate and breathing.

Benefits of endurance exercises include:

Physical activities that build endurance include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Dancing (such as Zumba)
  • Climbing stairs
  • Sports activities (such as playing tennis, badminton, or basketball)

The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week. The intensity of an exercise is decided based on the rise in the heart rate caused while performing it.


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Strength training

Strength training exercises are also called resistance training exercises. These help in strengthening the muscles. These exercises make you feel confident in carrying out simple activities, such as gardening and carrying groceries.

Strengthening your muscles not only makes you stronger but also:

  • Enhances bone growth
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Helps in weight control
  • Improves balance and posture
  • Reduces pain in the joints

Strength training includes lifting weights (even your body weight) and using a resistance band.

Lifting weights or using your weight

Get help from a physical therapist who can design a strength training program or the appropriate weights for you. As a rule, you should not exercise the same group of muscles for 2 days in a row. Use only 1-2 pounds (such as in the form of a water bottle) in the beginning and gradually keep adding weights, provided you can bear them.

You can use your own weight to improve the muscle strength of your lower legs through exercises, such as lunges and squats.

Using a resistance band

Resistance bands are elastic bands that if stretched and released slowly in a controlled manner can help improve muscle strength. You can start with the lighter ones first, then slowly graduate to the heavier ones.

While performing muscle training exercises, it is important to feel muscle fatigue, which is an indicator that you are doing them correctly.

Remember to breathe in and out while doing resistance training. Breathe in when you lift the weights and breathe out when you bring the weights down.

The American Heart Association recommends moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weights) at least 2 days per week.

Balance exercises

Exercises that involve balancing acts help you in preventing falls and these are especially useful in older people. The special type of exercises like ‘tai chi’ and yoga are examples of balance exercises. An example of a balance exercise includes:

  • Balancing on a single leg: Stand up straight with your feet together and hands resting sideways on your hips. Lift one leg with bent knees as high as you can or until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Try balancing for several seconds to a few minutes. Perform this exercise alternating the legs.

Flexibility exercises

Flexibility exercises are the ones that involve stretching the muscles. These exercises make it easier for your joints to move in all possible directions (improved range of motion).

Muscles that become stiff due to aging can give you muscle cramps. Flexibility exercises make them longer and flexible. Activities like bending down to tie the shoes become easier.

Flexibility exercises are especially recommended while recovering from fractures, ligament injuries, and muscle injuries.

Flexibility exercise can be done for all kinds of muscles, such as calf muscles and back muscles. Here is how you can improve the flexibility of your calf muscle through calf stretch exercise.

  • Standing calf stretch: Stand with your feet joined around 3 feet away from the wall. Put both your hands on the wall and try to lean against it. Put the right leg with bent knees forward till toes touch the wall and the straightened left leg behind. You can feel the stretch in your calf muscles of the right leg. Hold this position for around 15-30 seconds and release. You can do three-five repetitions.
  • Some yoga exercises can also be used to improve the flexibility of your muscles.

Remember to do warm-up and cool-down exercises before endurance exercises and strengthening exercises. Make sure you drink plenty of water in between the exercises, especially the ones that cause you to sweat. Including protein-rich foods in your diet is equally important as exercising.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

National Institutes of Aging. Four Types of Exercise Can Improve Your Health and Physical Ability. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/four-types-exercise-can-improve-your-health-and-physical-ability/

Harvard Health Publishing. The 4 Most Important Types of Exercise. January 2017. https://www.health.harvard.edu/exercise-and-fitness/the-4-most-important-types-of-exercise