A good workout routine should train your entire body, while also strengthening your muscles, heart, lungs and ligaments. Achieving all this might seem like an impossible task, but when you break it down, it’s actually really simple. In the context of fitness and exercise, there are really only three things you have to worry about: Aerobic fitness, muscular fitness and flexibility.
If you follow a workout plan that covers each of these aspects you will automatically improve your overall fitness level and vastly increase your chance of a longer and healthier life.
I will now go through each of the three types of exercise to show you which benefits they have.
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Aerobic fitness refers to any activity where your heart and lungs, work together to provide your muscles with oxygen. Aerobic actually means “with oxygen“ and usually refers to endurance exercise. Some examples include running, jogging, cycling, swimming and even dancing.
The benefits of aerobic exercise are many including lower risk of heart disease or diabetes type 2 and fewer problems that stem from high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
When we look at aerobic fitness our goal is to improve our body’s ability to take in oxygen and put it to use. This can be primarily done through exercises that involve large muscle groups and which involve dynamic movement for prolonged periods of time. Here your heart and lungs will work together to supply your muscles with the oxygen they need.
Obviously, the more you do aerobic exercise and train your heart and lungs, the better you will get at it. Not only can you increase your lungs’ ability to take in air but your body will also adapt to the overall stress leading you to be able to continue the exercise for longer periods of time.
The most common exercise to improve your endurance is cardio. Cardio can be applied to many forms of exercise such as running, biking or swimming. Now, even though cardio can be an effective tool to improve your fitness, it has to be done right. This is especially true if you want to use it for weight loss.
If you want to learn more about how to use cardio most effectively, check out my posts on cardio and weight loss and HIIT workouts.
Muscular fitness refers to your ability to contract muscles, which allow you to lift, pull, push, and hold objects. This type of fitness is best trained through resistance training, either with weights, machines or bodyweight exercises.
Depending on the intensity of your workout training for muscular fitness can also require a certain level of endurance and therefore share many of the same benefits of aerobic fitness. Furthermore, resistance training is linked to better bone strength, improved body composition and better posture.
Muscular fitness will not only help you with sports performance by simply being stronger, it also has the nice side effect that you look better visually since most people prefer muscle over fat.
As a beginner, if you want to train for muscular fitness, you have to make a difficult choice. Do you do only weight training, do you do only bodyweight training or maybe a combination of the two? Not only that but once you have decided you must also choose the right exercises for your workout.
All of this can be confusing so to help you out I suggest you check out my post on the advantages and disadvantages of weight training vs. bodyweight training.
Lastly, we have flexibility, which describes the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion. This means you take advantage of the full amount of movement possible given the individual structure of the joint.
Many people think flexibility a characteristic that either you have or you don’t, and even though some people do naturally have a higher level of flexibility, everyone can improve theirs with the right exercises.
Also, keep in mind that flexibility not only varies among people but also among the various joints in your body. As we age, we tend to lose some of our flexibility, which often limits our ability to carry out certain activities. A disused or injured joint will have a smaller range of motion than a healthy one. To improve flexibility long term, you always want to include stretching exercises in your workout program.
Stretching can be done either static or dynamic, as I will explain in a different post. Even though you might think stretching will add another time-consuming layer to your workout it only takes 5 to 10 minutes a day which really isn’t much when you consider the benefits of it.
If you want to learn even more about stretching and how to implement it correctly, check out my complete stretching program with more than 30 stretching exercises.