Exercise helps keep you fit, flexible and strong, and makes sure you have good balance. However, no one exercise meets all your body’s needs. If you’re really interested in overall health, you need a well-rounded exercise program that includes both cardio and weight lifting.
Aerobic exercise is the kind that gets your heart pumping and makes you a little short of breath. Running or jogging is the classic, but a good brisk walk can achieve the same goals – it just takes a little longer for the same effect. Swimming, cycling, cross-country skiing and rowing are other aerobic exercises. The point of aerobic exercise is to increase circulation and lung capacity as well as endurance.
Tight muscles increase the risk of injury and muscle spasm. They also limit your performance, whether in terms of your day to day life or your athletic activities. Staying limber means you can reach for things and move gracefully. Typical flexibility exercises include Oriental disciplines like tae kwon do, yoga and gymnastics, as well as basic stretching exercises like calf and hamstring stretches.
Strong muscles allow you to perform heavy tasks, maintain proper posture and promote your independence as you grow older. Strength training is also called resistance training. Weight lifting is one of the forms of strength training. Other forms of strength training include using an elastic band or machine to provide resistance and make your muscles work harder. Body weight exercises like squats, lunges and pushups use your own body’s weight to build strength.
Although strength training can help improve your balance, there are other exercises specifically targeted to promote balance that strength training doesn’t cover. Standing on one foot or performing a heel to toe walk are examples of balance exercises, as is tai chi and some yoga moves. Certain gymnastic and ballet moves can also help improve your balance. One of the goals of balance training is to strengthen your core or trunk.
As you can see from the explanations above, cardio and weight lifting achieve different things. Neither is sufficient on its own. Strong muscles won’t help you if your lung capacity can’t handle the demands of your daily life. Aerobic capacity doesn’t make you strong enough to climb stairs (although it may help you from getting too short of breath).
The National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health recommends that your exercise program always include the basics and meet the minimum recommendations. That means 30 minutes of aerobic training five times a week and at least 20 minutes of strength exercises twice a week for all major muscle groups. Add at least 10 minutes of balance exercises three days a week and three to seven days of stretching. You can also add fun activities like ballroom dancing or team sports, which may combine several of these types of exercises.
Time is always an issue with an exercise program. However, balance and flexibility exercises take only a few minutes in most cases and are easy to fit into your daily activities. When it comes to strength training and cardio, you’ll probably do best if you get it on your schedule, whether by setting a specific gym time or making an appointment to walk with a friend. Stay fit by making sure you do both cardio and strength training – it’s not an either-or proposition and neither is better than the other – you need both.
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