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Last month, “Exercise Variety May Slow Aging” shared the results of a recent study that found mixing up your exercise routine may be the best approach to slowing the aging process.  Well, for all those whose New Year’s resolutions include a vow to become more active, consider an exercise routine that incorporates the four basic types of exercise:

Cardio/Endurance 

Cardio (aerobic) activity increases your heart rate for an extended period of time, causes you to breathe faster, maximizes the oxygen level in your blood, and uses your large muscle groups.

Benefits:  Burns calories, increases physical stamina, and improves mood and energy levels

Goal:  30 minutes of sustained activity 3-4 days a week

Examples:   Walking, jogging, bicycling, ice skating, Zumba, swimming, working in the yard

Tip:  Find a couple of activities that you really enjoy and mix it up throughout the week!

Strength Training

Also known as resistance training, strength training helps build, maintain and preserve your muscle mass.  It also makes your bones stronger.

Benefits:  Builds stronger, leaner muscles and protects bone health

Goal:   2-3 days a week of focused strength training

Examples:   Can be done at home or in the gym using: 

  • Body weight (i.e. pushups, sit ups, leg squats)
  • Resistance bands (inexpensive, light weight tubing that resists when stretched)
  • Free weights (i.e. light- to medium-weight dumbbells)
  • Weight machines

Tip:  Strength training can counter the natural loss of lean muscle mass that occurs as we age.  It’s never too late to reap the benefits of strength training.

Balance

While it may not be the first type of exercise that comes to mind, balance exercises are very important.  This is particularly true for people who sit behind a desk all day.  Any exercise that keeps you on your feet and moving can help maintain good balance.  However, it’s important that your exercise routine include specific exercises designed to enhance your balance.

Benefits: Better balance, improved joint stability, decreased risk of injury and falls, and increased coordination

Goal: 1-2 times per week at a minimum, but can be practiced every day 

Examples:  At home: standing on one leg or heel-to-toe walk   Take a class: Pilates, yoga or tai chi

Tip:  Working on your balance improves your ability to use the correct muscles for an exercise (instead of “cheating”) by improving your neuromuscular coordination.

Flexibility

Flexibility exercises will allow you to use your full range of motion and will also protect your muscles and joints from injury. Aside from making other exercise easier – and safer – becoming more flexible will make going about your daily activities easier and with less “aches and pains.”

Benefits: Less risk of injury, more mobility, better posture

Goal: 5-10 minutes before and after intense strength or endurance exercise

Examples: Here are some basic stretches to try

Tip:  Make stretching a part of every workout. Many experts advise doing dynamic stretching as part of a warm-up before a workout, and static stretching after a workout.

Including these four types of exercise as part of your routine doesn’t mean you have to do them all separately. Try combining some exercises together, such as bicep curls (strength) while standing on one leg (balance).  In addition, some workouts, such as yoga, incorporate strength, flexibility and balance exercises.