When you think of physical activities, you probably imagine strenuous exercises like jogging or swimming — the kind of workout that makes you sweat and breathe hard. While these are essential for boosting your fitness, they’re just one of the four types of physical activity you need to stay healthy. The others are endurance, muscle-strengthening and balance and flexibility training. It’s important to incorporate all of these into your daily routine to reap the most benefits.
Getting enough physical activity has many health benefits, both curative and preventive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It can help reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, depression and obesity. It can also improve your mood, sleep quality and mental sharpness. Exercise is also good for your bones, muscles and ligaments. It can help you move better, reduce pain and discomfort from arthritis or injury, and make it easier to get up and down from a chair or bed.
In order to get the most benefit from physical activity, you need to vary the type and intensity of your workouts. For example, you should try to engage in moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic, bone-strengthening and balance-and-flexibility exercises on most — ideally all — days of the week.
Endurance, or aerobic, activities are those that speed up your heart and breathing, making you feel out of breath. These are the kinds of workouts that you can do for longer than 10 minutes at a time, and they include activities such as walking, swimming and dancing. Aerobic exercises can help reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and they can also increase your energy levels.
Muscle-strengthening activities are those that work your large muscle groups, such as those in your arms and legs. These are the kinds of workouts that can be done for short bursts, such as pushups and situps or longer durations, such as weight lifting or running. These can help you build muscle and reduce the loss of muscle mass that occurs with aging.
Balance and flexibility activities can improve your ability to walk on uneven surfaces and help you avoid falls. They can be as simple as doing stretches and yoga, or as complicated as playing on a sports team. These types of exercises can also help reduce your risk of injuries, such as ankle sprains.
Brain plasticity is the way your brain can create new connections between neurons throughout your life, and these new connections can have a big impact on your health and wellbeing. The more challenging and stimulating your brain is, the more it can adapt to change, and this is why it’s so important to keep learning and experiencing new things. So, what are you waiting for? Go out and try something new! You might find that you actually enjoy it. And who knows, it could be the start of a whole new healthy lifestyle!