There's no doubt that exercise is a boon for health. Plus, research shows it's never too late to start an exercise program and reap the perks of a fitter and healthier body. You can get health benefits from physical activity even if you start to work out later in life. Any exercise is better than none, but workouts should be balanced. Have you ever wondered what makes up a balanced exercise program? Ideally, it should be consisted of four different types of workouts. Let's look at each one and why you need it.
Aerobic exercise is movement that boosts your heart rate for a sustained period of time and includes exercises such as cycling, jogging, brisk walking, and jumping rope. Over time, aerobic exercise makes the heart a better pump so it can deliver blood and oxygen more efficiently to tissues. As a result, resting heart rate goes down because a conditioned heart can pump more blood throughout the body with each heartbeat. That's a plus for heart health.
Aerobic exercise also modestly lowers blood pressure and blood triglycerides, thereby lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart attack. High-impact exercise where both feet leave the ground at the same time also helps build and preserve bone density. Plus, aerobic exercise burns calories for better weight control.
Strength training helps people maintain independence and functionality as they age. You lose muscle mass after the age of 30 and this loss speeds up after middle age. Plus, you lose bone density over time as bones become thinner, weaker, and more brittle. Plus, strength training is beneficial for metabolic health. Working muscles against resistance boosts insulin sensitivity, thereby enabling cells to take up glucose more efficiently. This helps lower blood glucose and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
You can strength train using your own body weight by doing exercises such as push-ups. However, you'll eventually need to work with some form of resistance to get the most benefits. These include dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands.
Humans start to lose flexibility early in life, as early as the teen years and that will continue throughout life. Plus, if you have a job that requires prolonged sitting, the muscles that flex your hips will shorten and become less flexible while the opposing muscles, the glutes, and hamstrings, will weaken. Both changes increase the risk of lower back pain.
How can you improve flexibility? Add more stretches to your exercise routine. The best time to stretch is after your muscles are warmed up. So, save stretching for the end of your workouts when your body temperature is higher and your muscles are their warmest. Before starting a workout, skip the static stretches where you hold the muscle in a stretched position. Instead, do a dynamic warm-up, like jogging in place, leg swings, and arms swings to raise your core body temperature and boost muscle flexibility.
Exercises for Balance
Just as people lose strength and flexibility with age, balance skills suffer as well. This is an area of fitness training that many people ignore. How can you add balance training to your exercise routine? Do some of the exercises you normally do on a flat surface on a BOSU ball. For example, stand on the curved dome of a BOSU ball when you do squats or biceps curls. Doing this will also work your core muscles harder. Another way to work on balance is to do single-leg exercises, like single-leg squats, and single-leg deadlifts.
You can even work on balance in everyday life. When you're standing around, balance on one leg. You can do this when you're standing in line or at the kitchen sink. Hiking on uneven terrain is another way to sharpen your body's balance skills and reduce the risk of falls. If you want to try something different, Tai Chi is a very effective type of training for improving balance and stability.
The Bottom Line
How balanced is your workout? There's more than one type of fitness. Ideally, you should train to improve all of these areas of fitness. Doing so will maximize your health, lower the risk of injury, and give you the greatest functionality. Many people just focus on one of these forms of exercise, but you'll get the most benefits if you train in all four areas.