For many people who exercise regularly, a routine can help keep you on track. Unfortunately it can also get you stuck in a rut, which means you might not be doing all the exercises you should for optimal health.
“Whether it’s running, weight lifting or Zumba class, doing just one type of exercise neglects other important areas,” said Joann Markham, ACSM-CPT, of SamFit. “The main categories of fitness include aerobic activity, strength training, balance exercises and stretching. You should be incorporating each of these into your workout at least weekly to help you stay fit and age better.”
Aerobic activity is anything that gets your heart pumping for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. Benefits include weight management, improved heart health including blood lipid levels and blood pressure, greater endurance and more positive mental health. Examples: Running, walking, spinning, swimming, jumping jacks.
Strength training is what keeps and builds muscle. Strength training two days a week for 30 minutes can help keep your posture upright, especially as you age or if you work at a computer all day, and makes you strong enough to do the activities you enjoy such as carrying grandchildren, tennis or golf. Strength or resistance training also increases bone density, which is important for women and those ages 50 and older. Examples: Weight lifting, resistance bands, squats, standing poses using your own body weight.
Balance exercises are especially important as you age. Maintaining good balance is helpful for regular tasks such as walking and going up and down stairs. Along with strength training, balance exercises twice a week keep muscles strong and can help you prevent a fall. Examples: Tai chi, standing on one foot, back leg raises.
Stretching your muscles helps keep you flexible and gives you the ability to perform everyday tasks, such as reaching for something on the top shelf, without pain or injury. A few simple stretches can be added to the end of an aerobic or resistance training exercise session, or you can spend 15 to 20 minutes just focusing on a stretching various muscles in your body. Examples: Yoga, shoulder stretch, back stretch, hip stretch.
“All of these exercises can be done at home,” said Markham. “But if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just want help finding exercises you can do, a personal trainer is a great resource.”