Time to Change Up Your Routine?: The 3 Main Categories of Exercise

Whether you're new to working out or you're looking for some fresh ideas to recharge your fitness batteries, including different types of exercise in your overall routine will help you stay motivated and fit. The variety also helps you steer clear of injuries and keeps your body in peak condition. Plus, when you mix it up, you'll likely find exercises you enjoy.

Changing up your workouts during the week gives you variety and helps keep you motivated. (Image: svetikd/E+/GettyImages)

Tip

The most common types of exercise include cardiovascular (aerobic), weight training (anaerobic) and flexibility (stretching).

Different Categories of Exercise

When it's time to create a workout program that fits your needs, the first thing you want to do is set your goals based on the different forms of exercise. Once you have your goals laid out, you're ready to design a program. The ideal fitness routine will have all the different categories of exercise, including cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility. But if that seems too overwhelming at first, you can always start small and build on your plan as you get fit.

The overall goal for exercise is to get at least five days a week of moderate to intense aerobic activity for at least 30 to 60 minutes each day, for a total of 150 to 300 minutes each week. Additionally, you should participate in muscle-strengthening activities at least two days each week, with the goal of exercising all the major muscle groups. The types of workouts you choose to do on these days should include cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility exercises.

But what about your core? Which category of exercise do core moves fit in? Actually, all of them. What's so great about working your core is that you can strengthen these muscles with any type of exercise, including cardio, strength training and stretching.

Get Moving With Aerobic Exercise

Cardiovascular exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, simply means "with oxygen." When you're working out aerobically, the duration of the activity is longer and the intensity lower.

Including cardiovascular exercise in your overall plan is critical for maintaining good health. Not only does aerobic exercise help manage your weight, but it also boosts your mood, decreases stress and is essential in maintaining good cardiovascular (heart) health. There is no one best exercise for everyone; however, some of the more popular forms of cardio include running, brisk walking, biking, swimming and aerobics classes. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, five days each week.

Muscle Up With Strength Training

In addition to getting your heart pumping with cardio activities, you also need to include anaerobic exercise in your overall program. Unlike aerobic exercise, anaerobic means "without oxygen." When you're working out anaerobically, the duration of the activity is shorter and the intensity higher. One of the more common types of exercise in this category is strength training. A full-body routine is one way to hit all the major muscle groups.

You can build your strength-training routine any way you like, but typical exercises include squats, lunges, straight-leg deadlifts, bench press, pushups dips, overhead press, pullups, dumbbell rows, planks and exercise ball crunches. Aim for at least two days each week with the goal of working all of the major muscle groups.

Flow With Flexibility

In order to work out effectively and efficiently, your muscles need to move in a proper range of motion. Incorporating flexibility, or stretching, exercises into your daily workout can help you improve your joint range of motion, decrease your risk of injury and help you perform better. There are two types of workouts you can perform: static stretching and dynamic stretching. They both have their place in a fitness program, but there are a few differences to be aware of.

Static stretches are typically done after a workout when your muscles are warm, while dynamic stretches are done before physical activity to get your body ready for movement. When doing a static stretch, you hold the movement for a specific amount of time (10 to 30 seconds). Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, are active movements such as a leg swing. Carving out time in your daily workout to include both types of stretches is ideal.

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