Regular physical activity is a crucial component of overall health as it is an independent risk factor in cardiovascular disease development. In other words exercising is beneficial regardless of weight loss effects. Activities using major muscle groups and engaging the cardiovascular system by increasing and sustaining an elevated heart rate are valuable tools in warding off chronic disease later in life. Our heart (and to some extent the entire network of arteries and capillaries) is a muscle, and using it, strengthens in in the same way as other muscles. Exercise can have mental benefits too, such as reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms. For older adults, regular exercise can slow cognitive decline.
Currently the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise (e.g. jogging or brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (e.g. running) or a combination, in periods of at least 10 minutes per time, per week. Getting enough exercise, regularly, is easier said than done, therefore the type of exercise that is best for you is the one that you’ll do! And it doesn’t have to be just one kind; combining different exercise types and mixing up your routine is an excellent way to maintain regular exercise.
“In order for exercise to be a consistent practice, it needs to be fun,” says, Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, of wholegreenwellness.com, an intuitive eating dietitian specializing in plant-based nutrition. She says learning which kinds of movements you’ve enjoyed in the past can key in which exercises are best now.
Different types Of Exercise
Make it Regular
- Schedule it! Avoid having to make the decision of working out or not as our brains will often prefer the easier option. Have workout clothes ready to go. Know the class schedule.
- Commit, socially. Research has shown that working out with a friend increases the likelihood of doing it. If you know your friend is waiting for you at the gym it’s much harder to cancel on them than it is to rationalize to yourself why you are skipping the workout.
- Keep it fun. We’re more likely to do what we like. Try new classes to mix it up.
- Group classes are a convenient way to work out because they happen at set times and an instructor is there to guide you. You’ll be less likely to cut out earlier or skip portions of it if you are in a class.
- Don’t overdo it or else it will take longer to recover and may prevent regular exercising.
- Get enough rest. Often overlooked by those new to exercise routines, getting enough rest is a very important component of exercising regularly.
Cardio. Short for cardiovascular, ‘cardio’ workouts are defined by an elevated heart rate and movements that are aerobic, requiring increased oxygen intake, i.e. the stuff that makes you breathe hard! Traditional cardio exercises are running, cycling, swimming, and exercise classes such as aerobics or indoor cycling. Regular cardio activities can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and help to maintain a healthy body weight.
Weight-bearing. Weight-bearing exercises are essential for bone health and maintaining muscle mass and not have to use weights; push-ups and squats do not require equipment and can be modified to ability. For those new to weight lifting, it’s recommended to consult with an expert who can teach proper form and write a program that is safe and personalized. Increased lean muscle mass, which doesn’t require ‘big’ muscles, only well used ones, raises metabolism and increases calories burned. Working major muscle groups can help with stability in everyone, not just older adults, which can reduce injuries from falls.
Stretching. Stretching is not only a type of exercise; it’s an important one for overall health. Yoga is an example of an exercise that includes lots of stretching, but it does more than that. “I love yoga because it can serve as a cardiovascular exercise, if flowing at a pace that elevates heart rate, and strength-building exercise. It also helps with flexibility and balance, which are integral to overall fitness and function,” says Wolfram. “Yoga offers mental health benefits as well and postures can easily be modified for different body shapes, abilities and ages. Props are a great way to customize a yoga practice.”
Stretching is an excellent adjunct exercise to support cardio and strength routines.
Moving more—exercise or not. Physical activity doesn’t have to be defined as exercise! Dancing counts, as does taking the stairs instead of an elevator. Going on a hike or working in the garden or walking instead of driving (bonus strength building if you carry groceries home) are all activities that should be encouraged, even if they don’t fit in the parameters recommended by the CDC.
—Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD