Author: James O’Sullivan • Fact checked by: Gainful Registered Dietitians • Aug. 26, 2022
If you’re interested in improving your overall health and fitness, you may be thinking about starting an exercise routine. There are many different types of exercise, including cardiovascular exercise and strength training, but what is cardio exercise?
Some people think of exercise as one category: movements you do to improve your physical fitness. However, exercise can actually be broken down into four main types, each of which offers different benefits for your body.
Cardiovascular exercise, often called aerobic exercise, includes movements that impact your cardiovascular system by increasing your heart rate and breathing. Often done quickly to boost the heart rate, cardiovascular exercise has many different benefits and is critical to maintaining a healthy body. Some health benefits of cardio include:
These benefits help to reduce the risk of certain health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, stroke, breast cancer, and colon cancer. The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise (ideally 30 minutes, five times per week) or 75 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular exercise (ideally 15 minutes, five times per week).
While a cardiovascular workout improves the health of your heart and lungs, strength training focuses on strengthening the body’s muscles. Strength training is especially important since people lose muscle mass as they age, making them more susceptible to falling and injuries.
Unlike cardiovascular exercise, which is a high-intensity activity done at a moderate to vigorous pace most days of the week, strength training two to three times a week is typically sufficient to build muscle and prevent the loss of muscle mass with aging.
Strength training has a host of different benefits, including:
If you haven’t implemented balance exercise as part of your workout routine, you’re missing a vital component of a well-rounded exercise program. As we age, our balance starts to decline due to the deterioration of things like eyesight, the inner ear, and muscle strength, making us more susceptible to potentially dangerous falls and injuries.
Fortunately, lost balance is often reversible with exercises designed to strengthen the smaller muscles in your legs and feet that keep you upright.
You can do most balance exercises at home without equipment, which makes them accessible for older adults and people with inconsistent access to transportation.
Whether you work out regularly and experience muscle tightness, or you’re getting older and find that your body isn’t as flexible as it used to be, stretching is a beneficial type of exercise that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Typically done at a slow, relaxed pace, stretching can be static (such as bending over to touch your toes) or dynamic (such as swinging your leg back and forth to loosen the muscles).
People experience reduced flexibility with age and can also experience reduced flexibility when regularly engaging in strenuous physical activity, making it all the more important to stretch.
Benefits of stretching include:
When people think about exercise, there is a good chance they picture a cardiovascular exercise like running. Cardiovascular exercise is anything that increases your heart and breathing rate for a sustained period of time.
There are many different options when it comes to incorporating a cardio workout session into your exercise routine.
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Moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercises are those that increase your heart rate and breathing rate to a level that is sustainable over an extended period.
When engaged in moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise, you should be able to speak in complete sentences and maintain the workout for 30 minutes or more.
Examples of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercises include:
Experts generally recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week to get their heart pumping. Children between the ages of 6 and 17 should have at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, while younger children should have opportunities for movement throughout the day.
These intense cardiovascular exercises increase the heart rate and breathing rate significantly. You’ll sweat and experience a rise in body temperature. Speaking may be very difficult or may not even be possible with these exercises.
Examples of vigorous-intensity cardiovascular exercises include:
Experts recommend that adults get at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week if not engaged in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.
While you might think that working out harder is always better, getting a combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity exercise is excellent for your heart and lungs and places less stress on your joints than hard workouts alone.
Contrary to popular belief, there are seven different types of strength training. These include agile strength, endurance strength, explosive strength, maximum strength, relative strength, speed strength, and starting strength.
Agile strength involves a person’s ability to move objects from one location to another through multiple planes of motion. While it might seem similar to traditional weight lifting, most people move weights only in one direction, such as up and down.
Agile strength might involve picking something up and walking across the room to set it down in another location. Agile strength training can help you complete daily functional tasks, like easily carrying your laundry basket from one end of the house to the other.
It also helps to prevent injuries by stabilizing muscle and connective tissue.
Endurance strength refers to a person’s ability to maintain a muscular contraction or force for an extended period of time. Working on endurance strength helps your muscles work harder for longer and improves cardiovascular strength.
Endurance strength has many benefits, including improved posture, better aerobic capacity, and increased ability to perform daily household tasks without fatigue. Endurance strength exercises typically focus on lifting lighter weights for more reps or sets, such as doing bicep curls with a lower-medium weight and doing five sets of 15 instead of three sets of eight.
Explosive strength focuses on an individual’s capacity to generate a large amount of force in a small amount of time. The goal is to speed up movement through a range of motion. Benefits of improved explosive strength include reduced reaction time, more resilient muscle and connective tissue, and better coordination.
Examples of explosive strength training include throwing a shot-put and performing fast-paced Olympic lifts like the clean-and-jerk. You’ll want to do a few reps as fast as possible when doing explosive strength training throughout multiple sets.
As the name suggests, maximum strength involves recruiting all of the strength of the muscles to produce maximum tension against a weight or resistance. This workout is all about power. It’s a high-intensity type of exercise.
Maximum strength training helps to increase muscle strength, improve bone density, increase the amount of muscle-building hormones in the body, and enhance overall athletic performance.
Examples of maximum strength exercises include powerlifting, deadlifts, squats, and bench presses done with weights.
Relative strength is a measurement of the force generated per unit of body weight. Working on your relative strength is a good way to understand your strength compared to others who may weigh more or less than you.
For example, if two people weigh 200 pounds, but one can squat 400 pounds, and the other can squat 300 pounds, the first person is said to be stronger.
If one person weighs 200 pounds and can squat 400 pounds while another weighs 150 pounds and can squat 325 pounds, the second person is stronger because they can lift more per pound of body weight than the first individual.
Benefits of relative strength training include improving neuromuscular efficiency, maximizing recruitment of muscle fibers during a workout, and improving athletic performance.
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Speed strength measures your body’s ability to produce maximum force while moving at a high rate of speed. Most speed strength training uses body weight or a small amount of resistance, such as swinging a baseball bat or golf club, throwing a football, or sprinting.
Working on your speed strength helps to minimize reaction times and can improve athletic performance in sports where a high rate of speed is essential.
Starting strength focuses on your ability to produce maximum force from a stationary position. Think of the starting power sprinters have on a track after the race begins or an offensive lineman in football moving in after a pass.
The benefits of starting strength include improved ability to transition from stagnant positions to standing with improved reaction times. Starting strength training typically involves explosive movements using medium-to-heavy resistance.
A well-rounded routine should include each kind of workout. Cardiovascular exercise focuses on the health and strength of the heart and lungs, while strength training improves the power coming from your muscles.
General recommendations suggest that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise. Add two to three rounds of strength training per week to maintain muscle mass and improve bone density.
Whether you’re a beginner in the gym or a pro athlete, Gainful’s supplements and personalized blends can support your fitness journey. Take our quiz today to discover your personalized blends.
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