Maintaining good health is important for anyone who wants to live a long and satisfying life. For you to achieve the best possible health status, regular exercise is one of the things you must consider. Science has shown that exercise can not only help you optimize your health, but it can also prolong your life.
Exercise can lower your risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and certain cancers. You also need exercise to maintain a healthy weight, improve your mood, enhance sleep quality, and increase your strength, energy levels, and body functionality. In general, people who exercise regularly are happier, more active, and live longer than the rest of the population.
With different types of exercises to choose from, it’s important to know which ones are best suited for your health, fitness, and longevity goals. This blog post will provide you with a list of the best exercises for health and longevity, including information on why they are effective and how much of each you need.
4 Different Types of Exercise for Health and Longevity
There are many different types of exercise. The type of exercise you choose depends on your health and fitness goals, your current fitness level, and your preferences. Generally, any type of exercise is good for you if you do it properly. However, different types of exercise are suitable for different goals. Some exercises are easier than others, safer than others, or more effective at burning fat or building muscle.
To avoid missing out on the awesome benefits of each exercise, ensure your exercise program includes a mix of different types of exercise. Here are the best exercises for health, fitness, and longevity.
1. Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercises, also known as cardiovascular exercises or cardio, are those that involve performing one exercise for a sustained period. Aerobic means “with oxygen.” During aerobic exercise, your heart and lungs are forced to work harder to help your cells produce more energy using oxygen. Your heart rate increases because your heart is pumping blood faster to your muscles.
Aerobic exercises differ from anaerobic exercises (such as sprinting), which are performed with maximum effort for a short period. Aerobic exercises are good for developing cardiovascular endurance and burning those extra calories. If you’re looking to lose weight, manage your blood pressure, or lower your blood sugar levels, aerobic exercises are good for you. Examples of aerobic exercises include biking, running, jogging, swimming, rowing, and brisk walking.
For you to get the most out of aerobic training, it’s important to understand something known as heart rate zones. Heart rate zones are percentages representing your maximum heart rate during training.
For example, zone 1 represents 50-60% of maximum heart rate while zone 5 represents 90-100%. By knowing which heart rate zone to stick to, you can optimize the quality of your training.
Heart rate zones give an impression of how hard your body is working and what source of energy it’s using. In this post, we’ll focus on zone 2 aerobic training. Zone 2 training is essentially a low-intensity form of aerobic training that involves performing an activity for a sustained period at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.
Zone 2 training improves your metabolic health and offers significant longevity benefits. Most chronic diseases responsible for significant mortality lead to poor metabolic health by causing derangements in mitochondrial function. Exercising in zone 2 increases your mitochondrial number and boosts their function.
Zone 2 training is also highly effective for strengthening your cardio-respiratory system. It’s a great way to build your aerobic base. Having a strong aerobic base means that you can work at a higher intensity while maintaining a lower heart rate, which promotes longevity.
When it comes to fat burning, zone 2 training is more efficient. Higher-intensity training usually burns more carbs than fat as compared to lower-intensity zone 2 training. The downside is that zone 2 training burns fewer calories overall.
2. Anaerobic Exercise
Anaerobic exercise is a type of physical activity that is not limited by the body's oxygen supply. While aerobic exercises, such as running and cycling take advantage of the body's need for oxygen, anaerobic exercises help to build up your body's capacity to do without it.
Anaerobic exercise typically involves short periods of intense, demanding physical effort. One common anaerobic exercise is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT requires you to exert short bursts of maximum effort followed by a brief period of rest. Examples of HIIT exercises are sprinting and lifting one-rep max.
Scientists have shown that HIIT exercises are just as effective as aerobic exercises. The benefits of HIIT exercise include:
- Builds strength and endurance
- Accelerates weight loss
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Helps to control blood pressure
- Controls blood sugar (reduces risk of Type 2 diabetes)
- Decreases abdominal fat (a large waist circumference is associated with various chronic diseases)
- Boosts your metabolic rate for hours after the exercise
- Improves your heart rate variability
With both options on the table, should you go for aerobic or anaerobic exercise? Well, it all depends on your goals and what works for you. Both exercises pack a multitude of health and fitness benefits.
HIIT exercises are suitable for you if you don’t have much time to spare. A typical HIIT session lasts between 10-30 minutes. Despite this short duration, some studies show that HIIT workouts are superior to moderate-intensity continuous training in improving markers of general health and longevity, such as heart rate variability.
If your goal is to lose weight, HIIT is the better option. When it comes to burning those extra calories, HIIT scores higher than cardio. This is because HIIT burns calories both during and after the exercise. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as the afterburn effect, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption effect (EPOC).
3. Strength Training
Strength training, or resistance training, is a form of exercise where a group of muscles is forced to work against some resistance. In the process, the muscles grow bigger and become stronger. Weight lifting is the most popular strength training exercise.
Strength exercises build muscle strength, size, power, and endurance. With a higher muscle mass, you can decrease your risk of death from a chronic disease.
Lean muscle mass contributes to more than 50% of your body weight. Muscle tissue, unlike fat, is metabolically active.This means that it burns calories to work or repair itself. As such, it may help with controlling glucose levels and lowering your risk of heart disease by reducing body fat levels.
As you age, you gradually begin to lose muscle mass. Age-related loss of muscle mass is called sarcopenia, and it can begin in your 40s. The loss of lean muscle mass changes your body composition, reduces your resting metabolic rate, and makes it easier for you to gain weight. It’s usually associated with poor health outcomes including disability, falls, frailty, insulin resistance, and early mortality.
The good news is that resistance training can help you prevent or reverse age-related muscle decline. Strength training also increases your resting metabolic rate, helping you to control your fat levels, especially in the abdomen.
Apart from making your muscles stronger, strength exercises also improve balance, reduce joint pain, and maintain bone density.
Most people associate strength training with the gym, but there are a lot of exercises you can do from the convenience of your home. As long as you have some resistance, such as your body weight, you can workout without a gym or a personal trainer.
Strength training exercises include:
- Lifting weights
- Using resistance machines, such as cable machines
- Squats (with bodyweight or weights)
- Using resistance bands
- Heavy gardening
4. Stability/Balance Exercises
It’s not enough to have strong muscles. Good balance is important too. Balance exercises are those that improve stability. You need stability to keep your body upright and prevent falls.
As you grow older, your body begins to lose balance, making you more susceptible to falls. Balance exercises can help you maintain stability, especially during old age. Balance exercises mainly target the muscles that support your weight, such as lower-body and core muscles.
Some balance exercises you can try out are:
- Heel-to-toe walk
- One-leg stand
- Sideways walking
- Standing up and sitting on a chair without using hands
- Using equipment like Bosu
If you choose to include balance exercises in your training program, ensure you do them close to something that can provide support in case you lose balance. The risk of injury is high, especially when you’re starting.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
Now that you know the four types of workouts to incorporate into your exercise routine, you might be wondering how much time you need to allocate to each of the different types of exercise.
Here’s the recommended amount of time you should spend on each type of exercise:
- Aerobic exercise: You should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Aim to split this up over 2-4 sessions per week.
- Anaerobic exercise: When it comes to anaerobic exercise, it’s suggested that you start with one day per week and then move up to two days.
- Strength training: It’s recommended to perform strength training at least twice a week. Be sure to include exercises for all of your muscle groups.
- Stability/balance exercise: In order to improve balance, you should aim for 3-6 stability exercise sessions per week, with each session lasting 11-15 minutes.
Exercise Regularly to Stay Healthy
The benefits of exercise are numerous. Exercise can help you lose weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, boost your immune system, and lower your risk of anxiety and depression.
However, these benefits come with some caveats. We all know that exercise takes time. Experts recommend an upward of 30 minutes at least five times a week, coupled with some strength training twice a week.
There are many different types of exercises to choose from depending on your goals and preferences. If your schedule allows it, try incorporating different types of exercise in your fitness routine to enjoy their specific benefits. Also, remember to start small and improve your athletic performance gradually as you advance.
Exercise is one of the best ways to maintain your health. So, why not start now?
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