Physical activity or exercise is very important for mental and physical health and should be incorporated into every persons daily routine.
Exercise can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Exercise can also have immediate benefits such improved mood and productivity.
"If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health", Hippocrates
We are all busy, so when it comes time to exercise we need to work smart.
To maximize the health benefits of exercise it is best to engage in a range of different cardio, strength and balance training exercises.
Not all exercises are created equal.
Some exercises are simply more effective than others at burning calories and increasing your physical function. The last thing you want to do is invest time in completing exercises that will just have you spinning your wheels.
Below you will find a list of the very best cardio, resistance and balance exercises.
In this post you will also learn how to do these exercises and how often you should do them for optimal health.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
When it comes to exercise, doing something is always better than doing nothing.
Most of us are a lot less active than we think.
Simply walking more and sitting less can play a big role in improving your health.
However, to obtain a greater level of health and fitness most government guidelines recommend that you aim for:
Don't be afraid to start slowly.
Ease into exercise if you are a beginner.
If you’ve never exercised before or have been sedentary for a long time, it’s advisable (after consulting with your doctor) to start off slowly and gradually build up to these activity levels.
Just start with a 5-10 minute walk and build up from there. At the beginning stages of your fitness journey the most important thing you can do is focus on building positive and healthy daily habits.
You can always do more exercise, and additional health benefits can be gained by exercising for 300 minutes (5 hours) or more at moderate-intensity (or 150 minutes or more of high-intensity exercise) each week.
A greater volume of exercise can be helpful for people who are trying to lose weight.
Moderate-Intensity VS. High-Intensity Exercise
Whether you choose to do an exercise at a low, moderate, or high intensity depends a lot on your current personal fitness level, in addition to your health and fitness goals.
For example a fast 30 minute jog may be a low intensity exercise for a seasoned athlete, but a high intensity exercise for someone who is new to exercise.
How to tell how intensely you are exercising?
How It Feels: If you can talk and sing without puffing at all, you’re exercising at a low level.
Heart Rate Zone: 40 to 50 Percent of Maximum Heart Rate
Example Of Low-Intensity Activities:
- casual walking
- tai chi
How it feels: If you can comfortably talk, but not sing, you’re doing moderate intensity activity.
Heart Rate Zone: 50-70 Percent of Maximum Heart Rate
Examples Of Moderate-Intensity Activities:
- brisk walking
- light jog
- water aerobics
How it feels: If you can’t say more than a few words without gasping for breath, you’re exercising at a vigorous intensity.
Heart Rate Zone: 70 to 85+ percent of maximum heart rate
Examples Of Moderate-Intensity Activities:
- jogging or running
- riding a bike fast or on hills
- jumping rope
Component 1: Cardio Exercise
Cardiovascular or aerobic exercises are endurance activities that use your large muscle groups in rhythmic motion over a sustained period of time.
Cardio workouts get your heart pumping and you’ll breathe harder than normal and may even feel a little short of breath.
Benefits of Cardio Exercise:
The Top 5 Cardio Activities:
Running can significantly improve physical and mental health. As a form of aerobic exercise, running can reduce stress, improve heart health, and even help alleviate symptoms of depression. Some researchers think running may be so good for us because it's something we evolved to do.
#2 - Jump Rope /Skipping:
Jumping rope is a great calorie-burner. You'd have to run an eight-minute mile to work off more calories than you'd burn jumping rope. It strengthens the upper and lower body and burns a lot of calories in a short time.
#3 - Cycling:
Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, which means that your heart, blood vessels and lungs all get a workout. You will breathe deeper, perspire and experience increased body temperature, which will improve your overall fitness level. Getting out moving on the open road is also a great stress reliever.
#4 - Rowing:
Rowing can burn up to 600-800 calories per hour. Unlike running, rowing is low-impact, making it an ideal cross-training workout. Compared to other forms of cardio, rowing provides a greater range of muscle work. It hits just about everything in the upper body and lower body, as well as the core.
#5 - Swimming:
Swimming is a good all-round activity because it keeps your heart rate up but takes some of the impact stress off your body. Swimming builds endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness plus helps maintain a healthy weight, healthy heart and lungs.
Component 2: Strength Training
Strength training, sometimes called resistance or power training, builds up muscles with repetitive motion using resistance from free weights, weight machines, elastic bands, or your own body weight.
Exercising the major muscle groups for 30-45 mins at least 2 x per week is enough to help you get toned and strong.
Most beginner strength trainers should aim to reach muscle fatigue somewhere around 15 repetitions.
As a beginner it is fine to start with just one set of each exercise. Even at one set you will experience significant "beginner gains".
Keeping the volume lower in the initial stages of your training can also help boost your adherence levels.
As you progress and get stronger, you can challenge your muscles again by adding weight or using a band with more resistance.
Strength training also helps build a toned and muscular physique.
Feeling strong feels great. If you have never lifted weights before I highly urge you to give it a try.
Start slow and you will learn to love it over time.
Benefits of Strength Training:
The Top 5 Strength Training Exercises:
#1- Pushups or Bench Press:
Traditional pushups and the bench press are beneficial for building upper body strength. They work the triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders. When done with proper form, they can also strengthen the lower back and core by engaging (pulling in) the abdominal muscles.
Squats don't just help you achieve wonderful, toned legs; they promote body-wide muscle building by creating an anabolic (muscle building) environment in the body. They work up your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, abdominal muscles, lower back and your butt too.
Pullups are infamous for building and strengthening your upper body, but this is only one of their claims to fame. Your back muscles are also involved, and pullups are an excellent tool for strengthening and elongating those muscles. If you do pullups regularly, you may find that your posture begins to improve.
*Note: If you want to increase your pullups I highly recommend checking out this program
Deadlifting will strengthen the entire back and its surrounding muscles, making this lift great for rehabilitative, and preventative, purposes. In fact, the deadlift is the most effective exercise for building the core strength that supports all other major muscle groups.
#5- Military Press:
The standing barbell press builds more total-body strength than the seated overhead press because it requires more core stability and tension from the hips and legs. Seated presses don't require the same stability because the body is taking stability from the bench.
This program is suitable for you if you're currently suffering from inexplicable back, hip or joint pain. The exercises themselves are not strenuous and are designed to be carried out by anyone, regardless of ability.
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Element 3: Flexibility And Balance
Flexibility challenges the ability of your body’s joints to move freely through a full range of motion.
Balance maintains stability, whether you’re stationary or moving around.
Balance and flexibility training help to keep us agile and limber.
This type of training can also help improve athletic performance and reduce the risk injury.
As we get holder we need to have satisfactory balance and flexibility as it can greatly reduce the risk of falls.
Benefits Of Balance and Mobility Training
The Top 5 Balance and Mobility Training Activities:
#1- Tai Chi:
Tai Chi has been widely practiced as a Chinese martial art that focuses on slow sequential movements, providing a smooth, continuous and low intensity activity. It has been promoted to improve balance and strength and to reduce falls in the elderly, especially those 'at risk'.
Pilates is a whole body workout, which also works wonders for the mind. Regular Pilates classes will not only tighten and tone your whole body, but will also stabilize your muscles to not only lengthen them , but also improve posture and increase overall strength.
Yoga, a mind and body discipline that combines breathing exercises, simple meditation and physical postures, dates back over 5,000 years. Yoga can reduce stress, lessen pain and even sharpen your mind.
Yoga Burn products are now being used by women in dozens of countries across the globe who are interested in the health, happiness and body shaping benefits that strategically sound yoga-fitness programs can deliver. No gym memberships or exercise equipment of any kind are required to take part in any Yoga Burn program.
Getting Started Safely
Committing to a regular, balanced exercise schedule is one of the best things you can do to improve health, happiness and strength.
However, it’s important to proceed on your fitness journey with caution.
Nothing can derail your fitness goals quicker than a medical problem or avoidable injury.
Always get medical clearance from your doctor before you begin any exercise protocol, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions.
Be safe, get moving, get your heart rate up and enjoy the process.
Have fun, be healthy and feel good!