It's the same old debate! There are many different ways you can exercise. Some will produce particular results, however all are beneficial for keeping your body healthy & HAPPY! I thought I would break down for you the main types of physical activity to help you understand them more, and decide which one you prefer. Firstly, it’s important to remember that many exercises will fall into multiple categories of movement. For example, many endurance exercises will also build strength. And when resistance training exercises are performed as high intensity interval sessions they can sometimes also be considered a cardio or endurance workout. A good example is Yoga, which is both a strengthening workout and a form of stability and flexibility training.
Endurance Training (Cardio)
Endurance training involves activities which increase your breathing and heart rate. Aerobic means to use oxygen, therefore it is a cardiovascular (better known as cardio) form of exercise. It keeps your heart and lungs healthy and helps to improve your overall fitness level and quality of life. Cardio exercise is also great for weight loss and is an important part of any fitness regime. Examples of cardio activity are running, walking, swimming, boxing, cycling or dancing.
HIIT and LISS: The two main forms of cardio training that you will encounter are HIIT (high intensity interval training) and LISS (low intensity steady state).
- LISS training is the most common as it involves performing a lower intensity cardio activity at roughly the same pace for an extended period of time. For example, a 40 minute walk or run. The general range of time to perform LISS cardio is between 30 and 60 minutes.
- HIIT is very popular among those trying to lose weight and tone up, due to its effectiveness in burning fat while still retaining muscle. It involves much higher intensity work for short bursts with structured intervals and rest times. For example, 30 seconds of sprinting, followed by 30 seconds of walking or resting. The intervals can be amended based on your fitness level and intentions for the session. You may wish to increase your work time or shorten your rest time. The general range of time to perform HIIT cardio is between 15 and 30 minutes. Due to the hard nature of these workouts it is not recommended to perform for any longer than 30 minutes.
Strength training is an anaerobic form of exercise. This is different from aerobic exercise in that it relies on energy sources from our muscles instead of depending on oxygen from breathing. You still have to breathe though, don’t get confused! Anaerobic work increases the force your muscles can generate, therefore helping to improve strength, speed and power. Strength training typically involves resistance training including weight lifting and bodyweight exercises. For example, squats, lunges and push ups are all exercises that fall into this category.
This form of exercise is commonly used by people looking to gain muscle tone and/or mass, however is also very effective in weight loss and is important for maintaining a good level of fitness as well as healthy bones, muscles and joints. I believe it's important in everyone's training regime - not just the big guys at the gym! (Ladies - DON'T be scared that some strength training is going to turn you into Arnold, it won't! I have a whole youtube video with the reasons why it will only help you build a beautiful shapely body, so head over to my channel if you'd like to hear about them.) HIIT methods as described above can also be used in resistance training with a strength focus and is very effective in fat loss while promoting lean muscle.
Stability & Flexibility
Flexibility and stability training is one that often get’s left out of people’s exercise programs and is widely undervalued. It is often neglected by a high number of people who design their own workout programs without the help of a personal trainer, however is vital in maintaining a healthy fitness regime and physical performance.
Stability training and functional exercises are important in that they strengthen your stabilizing muscles and improve balance. This type of exercise is also important for correcting posture and muscular imbalances that quite often lead to injury. Flexibility training, better known as stretching, helps relieve tight muscles and improves range of movement. It's so important to stretch a few times a week and after physical activity. There are 2 main types of stretching, dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching involves consistent movement and is often used as a warm up to exercise. It includes things like leg swings which reduce stiffness and increase range of motion. The other is static stretching, which is most likely what you are familiar with. This one involves holding a stretch for a longer period of time without movement and is more commonly used as a cool down after exercise and for recovery.
Common forms of stability and flexibility training other than stretching are Yoga and Thai Chi.
So, what form of training is best for you?
That really depends on your goals and of course your preferences. I believe that a combination of all 3 main forms of exercise is the best and most effective. However, if you have specific goals such as weight loss, we’ve put some suggestions below.
Example A: You are already relatively lean and just want to tone or develop some muscle. Strength training incorporated with stability and flexibility exercises would be your best option to build muscle while avoiding injury. Small amounts of endurance training can be added to increase cardiovascular fitness. I would recommend 3-5 sessions per week.
Example B: You are currently overweight and would like to lose a few kilos. A combination of high intensity strength training and some endurance exercise would be your best option. I would recommend 2-3 strength sessions with 1-2 endurance sessions per week depending on your level of fitness.
Example C: You are happy with your body and feel healthy, you just want to maintain a good level of fitness and improve overall wellness. A a combination of strength, endurance, flexibility and stability training is a great way to maintain fitness and health.
With all that said, the most important thing is to listen to your body. Take note of what type of training your body responds well to, and what you actually enjoy.