What Is the Best Exercise and which Types of Exercise Is the Most Appropriate for You

You should realize that there are several types of exercise and that each fills a individual need. It's also important to make out that while we all share the same minimum daily requirement for exercise; different "doses" of physical activity may best suit different individuals, and then should know which types of exercise is the most appropriate for you. Exercise physiologists classify exercise based on how your muscle fibers are put to work and how your heart and movement respond to that work. But physiology won't help you find your way through the maze of exercise programs that may point you to a gym, a track, or a yoga class. To get where you belong, consider five distinct types of exercise in more practical terms.

Strength training (also known as resistance exercise) builds muscle mass and power and increases bone calcium content and strength. Strength training uses free weights, resistance machines, calisthenics, or rubber tubes and metal springs to improve muscles and bones.

Flexibility training is an important complement to resistance training. As muscles grow stronger, they get staffer, tighter, and shorter. Age takes some of the spring from elastic tissue, making muscles, tendons, and ligaments stiff and tight. Stretching will help; it improves flexibility, thus reducing the risk of injury and improving performance and function during exercise and daily life.

Exercises for balance are often overlooked. Indeed, smooth and graceful young athletes have no need for activities devoted to building balance and improving coordination. But check in with them again in a few years. Age takes a toll on balance, but special exercises can help. Good balance and coordination will help you glide through exercise and sports participation and will substantially reduce your risk of falling.

Speed training doesn't have a chapter in this book. It's an important tool for competitive athletes who need to attain maximum acceleration and speed, but it can do more harm than good when it comes to health. Unless you are training for top-level competition, there is no reason for you to push your body to its oxygen-deprived anaerobic maximum. Still, we can learn an important lesson from the men and women who coach top athletes. They use a technique called interval training, whereby the athlete alternates periods of maximum effort (sprinting, for example) with periods of modest intensity (jogging or walking, for example). If you're like most of us, there is no need for you to sprint—but you can build your endurance by varying the intensity of your exercise, jacking it up for a time, and then throttling back to recover before repeating the cycle. You'll also benefit from varying you activities and by alternating longer or harder sessions with shorter or easier ones.

You need resistance training for your muscles and bones, flexibility training for your muscles and joints, and balance exercises for your coordination and equilibrium. But how about your heart and circulation, your metabolism, and your muscular endurance? To improve these vital functions, you need dynamic or endurance exercise. Until now, that's meant aerobic training. The doctrine of aerobics calls for you to put your large muscle groups to work continuously in a rhythmic, repetitive fashion for prolonged periods of time. The goal of these types of exercise is to push your heart toward its maximum without actually putting your pedal all the way to the floor. In practice, that means raising your heart rate to 70 to 85 percent of maximum and holding it there for twenty to sixty minutes. Long-distance running, swimming, and biking are prime examples of aerobic exercise, so aerobic training is the best way to improve cardiopulmonary fitness, and it's an excellent way to promote health. On a personal note, it's what helped me overcome a heritage of cardiovascular disease and premature death some thirty years ago, and it's been a boon to thousands of people who run for their lives. Without disputing the merits of aerobics, we should consider an alternative approach. These types of exercise are not as good at improving the cardiovascular fitness that athletes prize so highly, but it's a great way to improve health.

Copyright © 2011-2012 Every Health