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Which forms of exercise are best for you and provide the most benefits?

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

There are plenty of benefits to different forms of exercise.

There are so many different ways to exercise and so many benefits! The basics are obvious; weight loss or maintenance, increased strength, and "my doctor said it's good for me." There are so many more benefits, some not as obvious, that all different forms of exercise can help with. Exercise helps with self-image and confidence, energy levels, circulation, stress levels, joint and bone health, and more. Which forms of exercise are best for you and provide the most benefits? The short answer is that they are all great in their way. Let's break them down.

Straight Cardiovascular Activity is one of the more common forms of exercise. This can include running, walking, spinning, elliptical, etc. Cardio is best known for helping with heart health. Regular cardiovascular exercise helps train your heart, making it more efficient. As a result, it does not need to work as hard daily leading to a decreased resting heart rate and blood pressure. This improves circulation which in turn helps all of the organs and muscles in your body because they have a better blood and oxygen supply.

Just as cardio trains and improves your heart, it does the same for your lungs. It helps to improve your aerobic capacity, so you don't tire as quickly. If you get easily winded, it may be a sign you should incorporate some more cardio.

Cardiovascular exercises can also increase bone health. Putting stress on the bones contributes to them building back stronger, so cardio moves such as running and walking can help with bone strength. With these activities, most of your calorie burn happens during the activity as opposed to afterward.

Next, we have strength/weight training. This can be powerlifting, heavy lifting, bodyweight strength exercises, or classes where you use weights that may not be as heavy but do more repetitions and higher intensity. Increased muscle strength is the most obvious benefit of strength or weight training. When you train your muscles, the muscle fibers hypertrophy, leading to a larger and more efficient muscle. Increased muscle strength isn't just great for exercise and showing off, but for daily functions.

Daily activities such as carrying laundry up the stairs, carrying your children around, loading your groceries, etc are so much easier when you have strength. Strength training stresses your bones as we mentioned above in cardio. It can lead to inches to inches lost as you replace body fat with muscle. A more muscular body is a more efficient body, increasing metabolism because muscle at rest burns more calories than fat at rest. With strength training, there is not as much calorie burn during the activity but there is more afterward. Your body requires more oxygen to recover in the 24 hours after the activity, leading to more calorie burn during that time.

Interval Training combines the benefits of strength training and cardiovascular exercise. Like weight training, your body requires more oxygen to recover in the 24 hours after the activity, leading to more calorie burn during that time (increased metabolic rate). You are stressing your bones like in cardio and strength training, and helping to improve your aerobic capacity. A huge benefit to interval training is that it is more efficient, you get the same benefits in less time.

Yoga and/or stretching is a very important form of exercise as well. It doesn't contribute as greatly to your aerobic capacity or calorie burn, but it helps with so many other aspects of your daily life. Regular yoga can contribute to much better balance and flexibility. Stretching and yoga are both great for increasing your mobility and range of motion in your joints. Combining stretching and yoga with your other workouts can lead to faster and better recovery. the mindfulness that comes with practicing yoga can help lead to reduced stress and better sleep.

Note how some of them overlap, but each exercise has different benefits, which is why it is best to establish a well-rounded routine. Try to incorporate all forms of exercise so that you can reap all of the different benefits and be stronger, healthier and live your best life!

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