It’s a well-known fact that exercise is an essential part of staying healthy, but what types of physical activity are best? Most people know that resistance training is essential for building muscle, but is there any need for cardio?
A combination of both is the key! Although fitness trends are constantly going in and out of popularity, it’s important to remember that all types of exercise have their benefits and, just like with your diet, a well-balanced and varied fitness regime is best.
You’re recommended to get active for at least 150 minutes each week, plus additional strength exercises at least two days per week. Your heart rate should be raised, make you breathe faster and feel warmer. Strength exercises can include lifting weights, working with resistance bands, body weight exercises or yoga (1).
Work your heart
Your heart is a muscle, and so getting active can help to keep your heart healthy so it can efficiently pump blood around your body (2, 3). There are many benefits of exercise, including helping with weight loss and a reduction in blood pressure, however they’re also other physiological benefits that can occur as a result of becoming more active. These include improved muscular function and strength, as well as improvement in the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen (4). Over time, this can help to make every day activities and exercise feel easier.
Burn more calories
Cardio exercise such as running or cycling burns more calories than weight lifting, so can help to drive weight loss (5). The more we move, the more energy our body expends and therefore the more calories we burn. Aerobic exercise commonly includes fewer resting periods than other types of exercise such as weightlifting, meaning you’re likely to work harder for longer. Research suggests you can burn more calories from a high-intensity interval training session than a steady-state exercise session, and this may be beneficial to individuals with limited time who want to gain the benefits of both resistance and cardiovascular training (6).
New to exercise? Never be afraid to take the plunge and begin getting active! Start small by walking or cycling instead of driving to work or to a friend’s house, and taking the stairs instead of the lift. Small simple changes are a great way to ease your body into exercise – just make sure you’re getting your heart rate up. When you’ve been doing that for a week or two, why not try going swimming or a short jog twice a week followed by a long walk at the weekend? Find workouts that work for you, and ideally someone to join you!
Variety Is Key
The best exercise routine is one that is constantly changing and challenging you to improve your fitness level. If you’re someone who regularly does weightlifting, why not try a spinning or dance class a couple of times a week? If you find yourself running the same route every day, try lifting some weights at the gym or even trying a few bodyweight exercises at home.
Something is always better than nothing, and the more we do the greater the benefit. So, why not set yourself a challenge to try a new workout every week and you’re bound to find an exercise that you truly enjoy and have fun doing!
- NHS Choices. Physical activity guidelines for adults. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/physical-activity-guidelines-for-adults.aspx (accessed 1st November 2017)
- George K, Whyte G, Green D, Oxborough D, Shave R, Gaze D, Somauroo J. The endurance athletes heart: acute stress and chronic adaptation. Br J Sports Med 2012;46(Suppl 1):i29-i36
- Heart Foundation. The benefits of exercise. Available at: https://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/wellbeing/exercise (accessed 1st November 2017)
- Myers J. Exercise and cardiovascular health. Circulation 2003;107:e2-e5
- The Compendium of Physical Activities Tracking Guide. Available at: http://prevention.sph.sc.edu/tools/docs/documents_compendium.pdf (accessed 6th November 2017)
- Falcone P, Tai C, Carson L, Joy J, Mosman M, McCann Y, Crona K, Kim M, Moon J. Calorie Expenditure of Aerobic, Resistance, or Combined High-Intensity Interval Training Using a Hydraulic Resistance System in Healthy Men. J Strength Cond Res 2015;29(3):779-785