3 Types of exercise you should do weekly for optimal fitness

How often do you find yourself thinking about the quality of your exercise routine? With heart disease still leading as one of the top health concerns globally, a startling statistic from the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology reveals that getting at least 2,300 steps per day can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease [1].

But it’s not just about walking or hitting the gym randomly; it’s about diversifying your workout to cover all bases of fitness—strength, flexibility, and endurance.

Let’s explore three types of exercise you should incorporate into your weekly routine to maximize health benefits and maintain optimal fitness.

1. Cardiovascular exercise

Cardiovascular (cardio) exercise involves any movement that increases your heart rate, enhancing heart health and burning calories. 

According to recent findings in health research, engaging in activities like walking, running, or cycling can drastically improve heart health and reduce heart disease risk [2], [3].

  • Why it matters: Cardio exercises strengthen the heart and lungs, improve blood circulation, and can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Weekly goal: Aim to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio spread throughout the week.

2. Strength training

While cardio gets a lot of attention for its health benefits, strength training is equally crucial. 

A study suggests that activities like weight lifting, using resistance bands, or performing body-weight exercises not only enhance muscle strength but also contribute to better bone health, preventing conditions like osteoporosis [4].

  • Why it matters: Strength training helps increase muscle mass, boosts metabolism, and supports joint health. It also improves overall body mechanics, which is essential as we age.
  • Weekly goal: Include two to three sessions per week, focusing on major muscle groups.

3. Flexibility and balance exercises

Incorporating exercises for flexibility and balance into your routine can help improve posture, reduce the risk of injuries, and enhance mobility [5]. Practicing yoga or Pilates can improve balance, core strength, and flexibility.

  • Why it matters: Flexibility exercises help maintain muscle health, reduce the risk of injuries, and keep your joints in good condition. Balance training is crucial for preventing falls, especially as you age.
  • Weekly goal: Try to practice flexibility and balance exercises daily, but a minimum of three times a week is a good start.

Why varying your routine is crucial

Diversifying your exercise routine is crucial not just for physical health but for mental well-being, too.

Various activities can help prevent workout boredom, reduce the risk of overuse injuries, and ensure comprehensive fitness coverage. 

Melissa Boyd, a certified personal trainer quoted by CNN, emphasizes the need for incorporating different movements into your weekly schedule to combat the sedentary traps of modern life [6].

To effectively integrate these exercises into your busy schedule, consider your current fitness level, your goals, and the type of activities you enjoy. 

Start small, perhaps by incorporating short sessions of each type of exercise into your week, and gradually build up the intensity and duration as your fitness improves. 

Your body—and your mind—will thank you for the diversity in your workout regimen, keeping both engaged and healthy.

[1] https://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/World-s-largest-study-shows-the-more-you-walk-the-lower-your-risk-of-death-even-if-you-walk-fewer-than-5-000-steps
[2] https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart/physical-activity/types
[3] https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/heart/physical-activity/benefits
[4] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/strength-training-builds-more-than-muscles
[5] https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/exercise-and-physical-activity/four-types-exercise-can-improve-your-health-and-physical
[6] https://edition.cnn.com/2024/05/04/health/three-forms-movement-weekly-wellness/index.html 

Photograph: Juan_Algar/Envato
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