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Four key types of exercise

Physical activity should be a part of all of our schedules, but it can be intimidating when you don’t know where to start. The benefits of being active outweigh the risks, but you still need to understand the basics.

If you are new to exercise, your first step should be to consult with your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough for exercise.

Here’s a quick and easy guide to four key exercise types. Whichever activity you choose, start small and build on your progress.

1. Aerobic exercise

Also known as “cardio,” aerobic exercise involves sustained activity that raises your breathing and heart rates and provides many health benefits.

  • Adults should aim forat least 150 minutes of moderate intensity a week (that’s just 30 minutes on 5 days each week).
  • Start with small amounts, about 5 to 10 minutes a day, if you haven’t been doing any activity, and work your way up from there. Some activity is better than none at all!
  • Choose activities like walking, running, swimming, hiking, stationary cycling, or elliptical training to get started.

2. Strength training

Also known as resistance exercise, strength training improves muscle tone and strength, is a good calorie burner, and can boost your metabolism.

  • Workout two to three days a week, and aim for doing two to four sets of each activity during a workout.
  • If you’re trying to build power and strength, do 8 to 10 repetitions of each exercise. If you want to build muscular endurance, aim for 15 to 20 repetitions.
  • Allow at least 48 hours between sessions so that your muscles can recover and rebuild.
  • Try machines, free weights, or body weight exercises to get started.

3. Flexibility

Stretching improves flexibility, which boosts your range of motion and can lower your injury risk.

  • Aim for two to three days a week.
  • Hold the stretch to the point of tightness or slight discomfort (It should never be painful).
  • Hold each exercise 10 to 30 seconds, repeating two to four times.
  • Stretching is most effective when the muscle is warm. Warm up for five minutes with light activity such as walking, jumping jacks, or skipping rope before you stretch.

4. Functional Fitness Training

This involves motor skills such as balance, agility, and coordination. This kind of exercise can improve physical fitness and how you perform daily living activities.

  • Aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes a day, two to three days a week.
  • Activities include yoga, tai chi, or others that include balance, agility, and coordination.

In a perfect world, everyone would do all of these kinds of exercise every week! But that’s not always possible. If it’s a busy week, I break my workout sessions into small segments throughout the day so that I don’t feel like I spent all my free time working out.

I am always looking for new ideas or strategies to improve the way I exercise. If you do two or more of the exercise types listed above I’d love to hear your strategies for fitting them in!