Most people have a favorite form of exercise. There are outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy running and cycling, yogis who travel to exotic locations for weeklong retreats, and power-lifters who make tossing weights look easy—just to name a few. While many people commit to an exclusive relationship with a specific fitness activity, working out is an area where it pays to play the field. That means including all types of exercise in your routine.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Exercise and physical activity fall into four basic categories—endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.” When you find the physical results you want with one activity, you may question why you need the other three. But, like food groups, each type benefits your body in a different way. When combined, they produce better fitness results and reduce your risk of injury.
Let’s break down each of type of exercise and what it does.
When you think of exercise, you probably think of things like running, cycling, rowing, or even a high-energy dance class. All of those activities, which elevate your heart rate, fall within the endurance category. For weight loss or maintenance, you want to squeeze in low-impact aerobic exercise sessions that are at least 45 minutes long.
Strength training, by contrast, is focused on building and maintaining muscle instead of raising your heart rate. According to the Mayo Clinic, long-term strength training increases bone density, decreases the risk of osteoporosis, and helps manage many chronic conditions like arthritis, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. If you’re looking for immediate benefits, strength training can help you lose weight by increasing your metabolism to help you burn more calories. Best of all, you don’t need to go to the gym or buy weights to add strength training to your regimen— the resistance from your body weight or a TRX suspension trainer will get the job done.
Endurance and cardio are wildly popular types of exercise, but if you want to improve your performance, you have to work on flexibility. According to NIH, “being flexible gives you more freedom of movement for other exercises as well as for your everyday activities.” The easiest way to incorporate flexibility into your life and recover from your other workouts? Yoga. But even if an hour of downward dogs and namastes aren’t your thing, taking time to stretch, foam roll, or work through a TRX flexibility drill will improve your flexibility.
The final element to a healthy lifestyle is balance. Literally. Balance may not seem important now, but it’s critical as you age and become more prone to falls. If you want to add balance into your other workouts, focus on movements that require you to stand on one foot, like Warrior III in yoga, a single-leg deadlift when weight training, or single-leg squats and lunges with the TRX suspension trainer. Alternatively, you could take up a practice like tai chi.
When combined together, endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance produce better results, help you avoid injuries, and lead to a longer, healthier life. Of course it’s still okay to have a favorite type of exercise, just be sure you don’t neglect the other options.