We’ve all heard of cardio and weight training, but these two forms of exercise are part of a bigger collection. Exercise can be split into four main groups: aerobic, balance, flexibility and strength. The type of result you’re looking for from exercising will dictate the right workout for you, but a good workout encompasses something from all four groups.
That being said, there will times when you might want to focus entirely on one type of exercise to get a specific result, or if you’re just starting out on your workout journey you might want to find out more about the four groups. In that event, this article will explore the four workout groups, the exercises within them and the results they yield, equipping you with everything you need to create a comprehensive and diverse routine that works for you.
The first exercise group and the one you’ve more than likely already heard of is aerobic exercise. Cardio falls into this category. Anything that improves your cardiovascular fitness (i.e. exercise that targets your heart and lungs primarily) is counted as aerobic exercise.
The term aerobic means ‘with oxygen’. When you undertake aerobic exercise, your heart rate increases, your lungs work harder and your breathing becomes deeper and faster. As a result of this, more oxygen is required and becomes the main source of energy for your body.
Aerobic exercise is not to be confused with anaerobic exercise. As the name suggests, anaerobic exercise is the opposite of aerobic, meaning it doesn’t use oxygen as a source of energy. Anaerobic is generally more intense and includes things like high intensity interval training (HIIT), sprinting, jumping rope, cycling and heavy weight lifting. Anaerobic workouts are typically shorter than aerobic ones, but they’re much trickier to do.
If you’re new to exercise, you should build up your endurance levels through aerobic exercise before moving on to anaerobic exercise. It takes time to build up your tolerance, but attempting to do a HIIT workout without some form of experience and endurance in cardio beforehand will be tricky to say the least.
To build up your endurance, you’ll want to undertake a range of aerobic exercises. Here are a few examples of cardiovascular/aerobic workouts and what they can offer you:
- Swimming: This is a great exercise because it works your whole body. Arms, legs, core; swimming does it all! The great thing about swimming is that you can very much go at your own pace and find the style that suits you best. You can go as fast or as slow as you like and you can do it for as long or as little as you want to, safe in the knowledge that your whole body is getting worked and your heart rate is being raised regardless. If you have bad joints or a condition such as arthritis, swimming is a great option.
- Running: A more vigorous form of aerobic exercise, running is great for getting your heart beating. If you’re new to running, it can be tricky to get your body used to it, but following a beginners guide can help.
- Walking: This is an exercise everyone can do. Taking a brisk walk that leaves you feeling mildly breathless can do wonders for you. It’s something anyone of any age can do, whether it’s in the morning, at lunch or in the evening.
Other types of aerobic exercise including cycling, team sports like football and field hockey, as well as dancing and rowing.
Aerobic exercise has many advantages, including reducing your risk of certain types of cancers, diabetes and heart disease.
Not as intense as aerobic exercise, flexibility training improves and increases the range of your joints and how well they work. This can have many benefits, namely making you more flexible and improving your balance and strength. These are things that can impact and improve your performance in other areas of exercise, so incorporating a session of flexible exercise into your workout routine is well worth it.
Types of flexible exercise include:
- Yoga: Often thought of as simply stretching, yoga offers so much more than just working your muscles. It works your core massively which results in a toned and defined appearance. It also helps to maintain your metabolism and can aid weight loss. There are so many levels to yoga which makes it a good workout for everyone to do at home. You can do a quick session or a longer one, and you can progress to more intense sessions if you so wish.
- Pilates: Similar to yoga, Pilates works your core and improves your posture, as well as your muscle balance. Typically more intense than yoga, Pilates strengthens the muscles as opposed to yoga which makes them more flexible.
The third exercise group is strength. Next to aerobic, this is another staple exercise and what many people think of when they envision a workout. Unlike aerobic and flexibility exercises, strength based exercise typically requires equipment. There’s a lot of debate about whether a gym workout or a home workout is best, but if you want to really focus on building your muscles, going to the gym will be more beneficial due to the wide range of machines available for use.
If you’re looking to lose weight, you might instantly be drawn to cardio and aerobic workouts, but strength training should be your focus thanks to the fact that an increase in muscle mass burns more fat by increasing your metabolism for muscle recovery.
On top of this, strength training is great for bettering your posture and reducing your risk of aches of pains. It also slows down the process of muscle decline and protects your bones, keeping you fitter for longer.
As with aerobic training, it will take you a while to build up endurance and tolerance to weight exercising, so it’s important that you start slow and build yourself up. Here are some strength workouts that offer room for progression:
- Resistance band training
- Bicep curls
- Leg press
- Kettle bell swings
There are many types of strength exercises, including deadlifts, barbells and mountain climbers.
The benefits to improving your balance are endless. From being able to put your socks on standing up without falling over to reducing your risk of a fall and a serious injury, improving your balance is a wonderous thing and can really benefit you in other areas of your workouts.
More important for older adults, balance exercises aren’t rigorous but should be worked into everyone’s workout.
Try adding some of the following exercises into your routine and see if your performance in other areas improves:
- Calf raises
- Walking on your tip-toes
- Stand on one leg
- Toe raises
Adding a bit from each of the four groups of exercise listed above into your workout will help you become fitter all round, so even if you do have one specific goal in mind, it’s well worth taking parts from of the four groups for an enhanced performance.