Some exercise is always better than none. But to get all the benefits exercise offers, you need to incorporate four types of physical activity into your weekly routine.
1. Strength Training
Strength training is essential for health. “It benefits most vital body systems such as the circulatory, respiratory, nervous, muscular, and skeletal,” says Jeremy Hyatt, owner and lead personal trainer at Hyatt Training in Portland, Oregon. “By incorporating it into your training routine you’ll make efficient gains in overall health.”
Resistance exercise has been shown to improve ease of daily activities and reduce pain. “In sports like Spartan,” Hyatt says, “it may play the biggest role in successful completion of a course.”
Get started: Hyatt recommends starting out with bodyweight activities, including squats and lunges for your hips and legs; pushups for your chest, shoulders, and arms; inverted rows (modified pullups with your heels on the ground) for your upper back and arms; and planks and side planks for your core. “They’re easy, accessible, and are relevant to real-life activities,” he says.
*Ideal frequency: *Two to three times a week for at least 20 minutes.
2. Endurance Training
Endurance exercise, also known as aerobics or cardio, increases the strength and efficiency of your cardiovascular system. Although it raises your heart rate while you do it, over time it lowers your resting heart rate while increasing the power of each pump.
*Get started: *U.S. government guidelines recommend 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity activity per week, which can include anything from a brisk walk to mowing the lawn. Or you can substitute 90 minutes of higher-intensity exercise, like running, swimming, cycling, or sports like basketball or soccer.
*Ideal frequency: *Most experts recommend doing something every day. That could include shorter, more challenging runs two or three times a week, combined with longer, lower-effort walks or bike rides on other days.
3. Balance Training
“Balance is incredibly important for all aspects of life, from the physical to the mental,” says SGX coach Michael Miesch, co-owner with his wife, Stephanie, of G-Force Fitness Studio in Rutherford, New Jersey.
Miesch regularly incorporates martial arts into his Spartan training because it helps clients keep their weight centered, allowing them to transition smoothly from one type of exercise to the next. “Balance gives you freedom of movement amongst multiple terrains and constantly changing variables,” he says.
*Get started: *Miesch suggests standing on one foot for 30 seconds at a time. “As you progress, you can bring the foot you’re not balancing on higher and higher until your two legs form a 90-degree angle,” he says. “This is a great way to build up the muscles within the leg that’s responsible for balance.”
When you’re ready for a bigger challenge, Miesch recommends jumping rope, alternating feet and landing softly on the ball of the foot.
Ideal frequency: Try to do something that challenges your balance every day. Think outside controlled environments like the home or gym. “Get out in the world,” Miesch says. “Walk on the edge of the sidewalk, or stand on a brick in the yard. When you learn to control the weight and movement of your body, the world will become your playground.”
4. Flexibility Training
“Flexibility is needed to perform everyday activities with ease, such as reaching for something, carrying children, or even sweeping the yard,” says yoga instructor and wellness author Doris Richardson-Edsell. But, she warns, “with age or a sedentary lifestyle, you can become less flexible.” The good news is that just about anything that challenges your flexibility, like light but regular yoga stretching, can improve your range of motion.
*Get started: *Richardson-Edsell suggests these moves:
- Sun breath: Standing straight, reach your arms out to the sides, inhale deeply, and lift them up to the sky. Hold for 30 seconds, feeling a slight stretch in your sides, then lower your arms and relax.
- Lotus twist: Place one of your elbows over the crease of the other, interlocking your arms. Push against your coiled arms and feel a stretch in your shoulder blades, deltoids, and triceps. Switch arms after 15 seconds.
- Balancing table pose: On hands and knees, bring your left hand forward, lift your right leg back, and balance, lengthening your spine. Switch sides after 15 seconds.
*Ideal frequency: *Richardson-Edsell recommends starting each day with these or other gentle movements from yoga or tai chi.
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