Health and Wellness

The Types of Exercise That Will Give Your Body a Boost

We all feel better when we get up and move. According to the CDC and the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise helps improve your sleep, boosts mood and brain health, and reduces your risk for serious conditions including Type 2 diabetes, many types of cancer, and high blood pressure.

But it can be difficult to figure out a routine that helps you reap all those benefits. Should you tackle an Ironman race, or will a weekly yoga session suffice? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Each body has different needs. We’re here to provide you with recommendations on how much movement you need to give your body a boost and tips on how to get started. But first, a few quick fitness reminders:

But first, a few quick fitness reminders:

  • Feel the pain, without feeling too much. The CDC notes that it’s normal to have some soreness, stiffness, or mild swelling after starting a new workout regimen. But if you have stabbing or shooting pain that causes you to feel limp or doesn’t improve with rest, or are experiencing swelling, contact your clinician.
  • Some exercise is better than none. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t meet the recommended guidelines for working out every week. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that even “Weekend Warriors”—those only able to squeeze in a workout once or twice a week—still had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality compared to inactive participants.
  • Understand different levels of activity. In general, aerobic exercise can be categorized into three different levels: light, moderate, and vigorous.
  • Light activities include a slow walk, playing an instrument, or standing while doing light housework, like washing dishes.
  • Moderate activities include a light bike ride, a brisk walk, heavy cleaning like vacuuming or washing windows, water aerobics, hiking, and dancing.
  • Vigorous exercise refers to activities like running faster than 6 mph, shoveling snow, lifting weights or performing heavy manual labor, hiking uphill, heavy gardening like digging, or playing sports like basketball, soccer, and singles tennis.

If you’re not sure which category an activity falls under, think about how you’re able to carry on a conversation when you perform it. During light activity, you should have no trouble having a long chat. During moderate activity, you should still be able to talk, but might have more trouble carrying on a long conversation. During vigorous activity, you’ll likely find it difficult to get out more than a sentence or two.

Find the Right Moves for You

Relatively Fit Adults

The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. This doesn’t have to happen all at once—break the activity down into the schedule that works for you. At least twice throughout the week, the CDC recommends incorporating muscle-strengthening activity into your routine. Ideally, all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) would get worked each week, though not necessarily with each session. Activities to consider:

  • Lifting weights or using resistance bands
  • Doing bodyweight resistance exercises like push-ups or squats
  • Walking up hills or stairs, or performing vigorous outdoor activities like digging

The combination of strength training and aerobic activity provides more benefits than sticking purely to cardio. Doing so can help manage pain, create a stronger foundation to guard against falls, alleviate symptoms of chronic conditions, and help build stronger bones to reduce the risk of conditions like osteoporosis. Get the most from your moves: Strive for variety. Working out in different ways helps your entire body grow stronger, help prevent injury, and stave off boredom. Shake things up by setting a goal to try one new-to-you type of exercise each month for the rest of the year.

Pregnant Or Postpartum

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has found that there are several benefits to physical activity during pregnancy, including a decreased risk of gestational diabetes, cesarean births, and depressive conditions during the postpartum period. ACOG’s exercise recommendations vary depending on the type of pregnancy and activity level pre-pregnancy:

  • If you were active pre-pregnancy and have an uncomplicated, healthy pregnancy: ACOG recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. You could keep up with high-intensity workouts, though ACOG does recommend paying close attention to caloric intake, hydration levels, and exposure to heat.  
  • If you were sedentary pre-pregnancy and have an uncomplicated, healthy pregnancy: ACOG recommends striving for 150 minutes of light to moderate physical activity per week, though suggests easing into a routine carefully.
  • After giving birth: The postpartum period lasts at least 6 weeks, though it can take much longer for the body to heal. ACOG suggests that some people may be able to resume light to moderate activity in the days following the birth, while others may need more time. ACOG recommends gradually easing into activity once cleared by your clinician, noting that even light physical movement can help enforce healthy habits that last long after the transition to parenthood, help you sleep better, and help prevent postpartum depression.

Get the most from your moves: Common core exercises can become counterproductive or impossible later in your pregnancy, so instead, focus on your breath. Diagrammatic or 360 breathing engages your deep core muscles and works your pelvic floor too. Here is a great diagram showing 5 simple ways to improve your pelvic floor.

Adults 65+

The CDC recommends that adults older than 65 who are generally fit and don’t have limiting health conditions get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, with muscle-strengthening exercises incorporated at least twice a week. If any physical conditions prevent that much movement, the CDC stresses that some movement is better than none. One recent study published in the Journals of Gerontology found that simply breaking up sedentary time by getting up to get a glass of water or walking while talking on the phone can lead to better physical functioning. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to hit the gym to get the benefits of exercise. Activities like vacuuming or gardening count too.

Get the most from your moves: Exercising with a friend can help you stay motivated, push you to better results, and stave off the isolating effects of aging. A Zoom dance party with a friend, a brisk walk to a nearby cafe with a neighbor, pushing your grandkid in a swing at the park, or joining a gardening club are all ways to get both the physical and social benefits of movement.

Those With Chronic Condition, Disability, Or Physical Limitations

The CDC recommends that people with chronic health conditions, disabilities, or physical limitations also get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, with muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week. There are many ways to work out even with limited mobility. Check out some of our favorites:

  • If you have joint pain: Get in the water. Activities like water aerobics, swimming laps, and underwater rowing get your heart pumping without being too hard on joints.
  • If you have limited upper mobility: Try placing a portable pedal exerciser under your desk or by the couch, which will get blood flowing throughout your body.
  • If you have limited lower mobility: Shadow box in place, working your way up to using hand weights. Physical video games, like those you play on a Nintendo Switch, can be a fun way to get in this work, especially with friends.
  • If you’re in a wheelchair: If you’re able, put a resistance band under your chair or tie it to  something sturdy to help with bicep curls, shoulder stretches, and pulls. And don’t forget that exercising your core can help to strengthen your entire foundation. When possible, sit at a 90 degree angle and slowly contract your core muscles in and out. Over time, you may build up to incorporating a spinal twist into the movement.[1]

Get the most from your moves: Consistency is key. Use calendar reminders to help you stay accountable and on track. And if you take a day or two off, don't stress. Set a realistic goal and start your routine again.

Children & Adolescents

The CDC recommends kids aged 3-5 are physically active throughout the day in order to enhance their growth and development. The 6-17 age group should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day, with bone- and muscle-strengthening exercises at least 3 days per week.

Kids and teens who don’t want to hit the gym don’t have to. Bodyweight movement like doing the monkey bars, playing tug-of-war, climbing on a playground or in trees, mowing the lawn, sweeping, jumping rope, or playing sports that involve jumps and pivots are all ways to strengthen bones and muscles.

Get the most from your moves: Don’t force sedentary kids to participate in an activity they don’t like. Plan exercises based on the things that do interest them. A trip to the zoo to see their favorite animal, walking to a thrift shop to put together an outfit based on a beloved video game character, shoveling the driveway while listening to a favorite podcast, or offering to walk a neighbor’s dog are all ways to show that movement can be a fun way to do more of the things they love.

If you have any questions for your clinician about getting started with exercise or finding the movement that works for you, open the app and start a visit today.

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