While there are endless forms of exercise, experts categorize physical activity into four broad types based on what each calls upon your body to do and how the movement benefits you.
Aerobic exercise is marked by an increased heart rate. Although most aerobic exercises require you to move your whole body, the main focus is on your heart and lungs (Aerobic exercise is often called “cardio” because it challenges and benefits your cardiovascular system). Activities like walking, swimming, dancing and cycling, if done at sufficient intensity, get you breathing faster and your heart working harder. Aerobic exercises burn fat, improve your mood, reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar.
Strength training, sometimes called resistance training, should be performed two to three times a week. Squats, lunges, push-ups and the exercises performed on resistance machines or using weights or bands help maintain and even build muscle mass and strength. Strength training also helps prevent falls, keep bones strong, lower blood sugar levels, and improve balance. Do a combination of both isometric and isotonic exercises. Isometric exercises, such as doing planks and holding leg lifts, are done without movement. They are great for maintaining strength and improving stability. Isotonic exercises require you to bear weight throughout a range of motion. Bicep curls, bench presses and sit-ups are all forms of isotonic exercise.
Stretching exercises keep your muscles and tendons flexible, preserve your posture, and improve mobility, especially as you age. Stretching can be done every day.
Balance exercises call on the various systems that help you stay upright and oriented, such as those of the inner ear, vision and muscles and joints. Tai chi and yoga are great forms of balance exercises that can help you avoid falls and stay independent well into your senior years.