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New Year, New Exercise Habits

Another one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to “Exercise More”.

Exercise is an important part of maintaining a healthy life. It’s not just about losing weight, exercise is good for helping your body maintain its important systems and keep them running properly (think insulin levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart, joint and bone health), improving mental health and mood, and prolonging life. Plus, if you make exercise a regular part of your life it becomes a lot easier to participate in fun activities like sight seeing on trips or playing with pets and children in your life.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to go from doing little to no exercise, to trying to maintain a 3 or 4 day a week gym habit. It’s okay if that sounds like something you’ve done; there’s a reason lots of gyms offer membership deals in early January. As we mentioned in our previous blog about maintaining New Year’s Resolutions, it’s very easy to set a large and unrealistic goal because we’re so excited about it.

Two woman team up exercise

If you are struggling with meeting your exercise goals, this blog post is for you! We’re going to break down the different types of exercise (Because hey, maybe in your head you’re imagining working on one part of exercise but haven’t articulated that yet), and how to ease yourself into them so you can create the habit and endurance necessary to reach that place where exercise is just a regular part of your day and not something you continually put off.

If you really want to start small (and trust us, the small steps are the best ones), you can check out our “Staying Active in Winter” blog for fun simple types of exercise you can add into your daily routine that don’t look or feel like a conventional work out.

Before we get started on types of exercises and workouts, consider what feels most appealing to you. Don’t put yourself in a place where you might feel uncomfortable. If the idea of working out in a busy gym gives you anxiety, you’ll be much less likely to want to go to the gym and follow through on your goal. Take a moment to think about what sounds most effective and fun for you.

Do group classes seem interesting? How about things you can do yourself? Would you prefer using special equipment/machines or would you rather use your own body or things you can find in your own home? Do you have a competitive drive that pushes you to do your best? Would you feel comfortable having a trainer beside you to keep you motivated? All of these are great questions to help get you started in figuring out where you’ll have the most success in reaching your goal.

Now that you’ve taken the time to decide what exercise environment is best for you, it’s time to explore the different types of exercise! Most types of exercise or activities fall into one of four categories: Endurance, Strength, Balance or Flexibility. Depending on what your fitness and exercise goals are you may find interest in one or more of these categories. While you may have more interest in developing one of these categories, our bodies require training in all these areas to run at their best! Variety is important so we can make sure we are equal in all areas. Too much strength training may mean our flexibility suffers. If you focus only on endurance you may miss the opportunity to build up the muscles that help you last longer, and so on.

Now that we’ve covered all that, here are the 4 categories, how they help our bodies, and some easy ways to start incorporating them into your life!

1. Endurance

Man running on threadmillWhat is it?: Endurance exercises may also be referred to as Cardio or Aerobic and Anaerobic workouts.

What Counts?: Endurance is probably the easiest type of exercise to engage in because it includes anything that elevates your heart rate! Biking, walking, jogging, swimming… you get the idea. Depending on the intensity level you can also extend to High Intensity Interval Training (like the classes at OrangeTheory fitness), spin classes, sprint training etc.

You can do most endurance exercises at either a low intensity (if you’re able to talk during the exercise but you know your heart rate has risen, you’re doing a low intensity work out! Look at your go!), or high intensity (where you’re working your hardest and can’t maintain a full conversation).

How Does it Benefit Me?: Endurance workouts improve cardiorespiratory and pulmonary function, reduce blood pressure, and increase circulation. Additionally, you’ll be able to participate in things longer like playing with kids or hiking.

How Do I Ease Into It?: Endurance is the easiest type of exercise to incorporate into daily life. Taking the stairs, parking further away from things, evening walks in the park, using a treadmill, stepper or elliptical machine are all easy ways to start building endurance. Focus on small goals, like and gradually increase the amount of time or the intensity of the activity. For example, I will swim 4 laps, 5 laps, etc. Or I will swim nonstop for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, etc. It’s easy to set small goals and accomplish them and then increase them as you build that habit. Who knows, you might start at daily walks and slowly work your way up to an HIIT class!

2. Strength

Coach assisting woman on weight trainingWhat is it?: Strength training mainly refers to working towards muscular strength. Muscular strength can come in many forms, physically building larger muscles, muscular endurance (the ability to exert tension over long periods of time), muscular strength (being able to lift or move that really heavy thing in one try), and surprisingly, cardio training! That’s right, lifting weights in a high intensity way can also help you improve your cardio health!

What Counts?: Any form of lifting weights (Whether in a gym or at home), work with resistance bands, and body weight exercises!

How Does it Benefit Me?: Obviously strength training will increase your strength and mass, but it also helps boost your metabolism, increases bone density, builds good posture, and can help strengthen your joints and issues due to muscular imbalances in the body.

How Do I Ease Into It?: Start small! Short workouts with weights you can manage is best! Don’t try to push yourself too hard to fast, or you may quickly feel discouraged. You can start by choosing to focus on the weight changes (I will lift up 5lbs today, 10 lbs today and so on), or focus on how often you work on strength, moving from once a week to a few times a week! You don’t have to splurge on weights either, there are plenty of great bodyweight workouts you can use where you can track your progress by how many reps you’re able to do, or how long you can hold them!

3. Flexibility

Woman yoga stretchingWhat Is It?: Flexibility exercises work to stretch your muscles to keep you limber! Flexibility exercises can be either static (holding a stretch without contracting the muscle for 20-30 seconds), dynamic (moving comfortably through your range of motion in the pose repeatedly), passive (using external assistance to help move and hold the stretch and intensify it to help you stretch further), active (activating the opposing muscles and adding action to stretch the desired area), or Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) (Contracting and releasing the muscles involved in the stretch 10-15 times).

What Counts?: Any type of stretching counts towards flexibility training! But if you’re looking for something a little more structured you can check out foam rolling, yoga, and Pilates classes.

How Does It Benefit Me?: Flexibility workouts help increase your range of motion, releases muscular tension, supports spinal and musculoskeletal health, improves general mobility, and is injury prevention from certain movements or activities.

How Do I Ease Into It?: Starting with an hour long yoga class can sometimes feel like a bit much, but starting by doing small 5 minute exercise routines before bed or during TV commercials is a great way to build up until you feel ready to try classes or longer home workouts!

4. Balance

Woman standing with one leg yoga What Is It?: Balance training allows us to do lots of everyday activities we might not think about, like bending over, standing up, and even walking!

What Counts?: If you want something more structured, yoga and tai chi are fantastic practices to help build your balance. Otherwise, actively challenging yourself to do things like standing on one leg, standing on a bosu ball, or getting up/sitting down without using your hands all count! You can add intensity by closing your eyes, letting go of support or holding a pose longer each time you do it.

How Does It Benefit Me?: Injury prevention! Good balance helps prevent falls and keeps moving fluidly throughout your environment.

How Do I Ease Into It?: You can practice balancing anywhere! If you aren’t ready for a yoga or tai chi class you can start by even practicing standing on one leg. You can increase the amount of time you stay on the leg, close your eyes, or try doing it on something like a bosu ball!

Exercise doesn’t have to mean you spend hours at the gym, it can be as easy as deciding on what you want to focus on and taking those small steps to success!

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