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7 Types of Exercises to Keep You Fit and Healthy

Engaging in a diverse array of exercises, each with its unique flair, promises to sculpt a healthier version of yourself over time, provided you remain dedicated to the journey
It sounds like you’re ready to make a positive change in your life by focusing on your health and fitness. That’s fantastic! Taking that first step is often the hardest part, but now that you’re here, the rest of the journey awaits. You might be wondering, “Where do I go from here? What kind of exercise routine should I follow? Who can help guide me along the way?”
Don’t worry, you’re not alone in feeling a bit lost. As you read through this article, you’ll gain clarity on how to kickstart and succeed in your fitness journey. Your questions are important, and it’s essential to find the answers that will help you create a workout plan that’s both challenging and achievable, tailored just for you.

What does it mean to be fit?

Being fit entails working smoothly and successfully in both the mind and body. Our fitness level has an impact on many aspects of our everyday life, from simple chores to difficult obstacles. Muscular strength, low body fat, flexibility, bone density, joint health, cognitive capacities, mental resilience, and overall illness-free status are all considered while measuring fitness.
Staying fit is cultivating a balanced lifestyle that not only makes you healthy but encourages vitality and longevity, allowing us to live our best lives. There is no one-size-fits-all method for obtaining fitness and preserving health. Instead, there are numerous paths to fitness and wellness, and individuals can achieve success using approaches and practices that are tailored to their specific requirements and preferences.

What is exercise?

Exercise refers to body motions or physical activities that are purposefully designed to cause physiological changes and promote health. Living a sedentary lifestyle causes our bodies to lose strength and stamina over time, which impairs their basic functioning. Your muscles cannot grow if you do not use them. When we engage in a repetitive activity that uses our muscles, it drives tissue change and adaptation such as a growth in muscular mass and strength. Similarly, training improves cardiovascular functioning and cognition.

Different types of exercises that help you stay fit

1. Aerobic (Cardiovascular) Exercise

Running, jogging, fast walking, swimming, bicycling, rowing, kayaking, skating, and using aerobic exercise machines like treadmills, stair-climbing, or elliptical machines.

Aerobic exercise is a type of physical activity that is continuous and rhythmic, which triggers your aerobic metabolism by increasing your oxygen uptake and cardiac output. During aerobic workouts, the body needs a constant and reliable source of energy to fuel muscle contractions, maintain performance, and sustain exercise for longer durations without experiencing fatigue. Oxygen plays a big part here. It’s like fuel, constantly delivered to your muscles through your blood to support aerobic metabolism and energy production.
What is the process of energy production during aerobic metabolism?
While performing aerobic activity our breathing increases, our heart beats fast and the amount of blood the heart pumps per beat also increases. This increased stroke volume helps with more oxygenated blood supply to the working muscles. Thus muscles extract oxygen from the blood more efficiently to support aerobic metabolism, which is essential for producing energy and support sustained physical exertion.
When muscles are active, they consume energy in the form of calories to perform various functions such as contraction, movement, and maintenance of cellular processes. Hence more calories are burned during the process. During aerobic metabolism, our body produces energy through the combustion of carbohydrates, amino acids, and fats in the presence of oxygen.
What are the benefits of aerobic training?
As you engage in regular exercise over time, your muscles become better at using oxygen from your blood. As a result, you’ll notice that you need to breathe less heavily or frequently during your workouts. With better oxygen utilization, your muscles can sustain physical activity for longer periods without fatigue setting in as quickly. Efficient oxygen use by muscles reduces the workload on your heart, promoting cardiovascular health.
In a crux, performing aerobic activity helps in improving our cardiovascular health, lung health, metabolic rate, and body composition. Aerobic metabolism predominantly utilizes fats as a fuel source, especially during low to moderate-intensity exercise. By relying on fat oxidation, aerobic exercise can help reduce body fat stores and improve endurance over time. Aerobic exercises are practical for fat loss and calorie burning, making them popular choices for individuals aiming to manage their weight, improve cardiac muscle strength, build stamina, improve bone density, and increase endurance.

2. Anaerobic Exercise/ Strength Training

Anaerobic exercise, also known as strength training, weight training, or resistance training, involves performing activities that require muscular contractions against resistance. These activities can include using free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises.

The primary goals of anaerobic training include building strength, increasing skeletal muscle size, and improving anaerobic endurance. During strength training, the muscles are repeatedly contracted against the resistance provided by the chosen equipment or weights. These contractions cause microscopic damage to the muscle fibers and when the muscles repair during the recovery process, the muscles grow stronger, bigger, and adapted for better handling of future challenges.
What is Anaerobic Endurance?
Anaerobic endurance refers to the ability of muscles to sustain high-intensity efforts for short durations without relying on oxygen for energy production. It involves activities like sprinting, weightlifting, or any other intense exercise that pushes the muscles to work at maximum capacity for brief periods. Improving anaerobic endurance helps individuals perform better in activities that require short bursts of power and strength.
Why do we call strength training, anaerobic?
Anaerobic means not relying on oxygen for energy production, whereas in aerobic exercises oxygen is used by the working muscles to produce energy. Unlike aerobic exercises that rely on a steady supply of oxygen through breathing, strength training involves quick and intense movements that consume oxygen at a faster rate.
As the muscles work harder to generate force they use up available oxygen more rapidly, leading to a rapid depletion of oxygen levels in the body. When oxygen levels are insufficient to meet the energy demands of the muscles, the body resorts to anaerobic metabolism to generate energy to meet the immediate demands. This process is called glycolysis which involves breaking down stored energy sources, primarily glycogen (stored glucose) to produce energy without using oxygen.
Four Principles of Strength Training

Four principles form the foundation of an effective strength training program, guiding your workouts to ensure continuous improvement and adaptation:

Volume: This refers to the total amount of work performed in a single training session, typically measured by the number of sets, reps, and exercises completed. Increasing volume over time can lead to muscle hypertrophy (growth) and improved strength.

Intensity: Intensity represents the level of effort or resistance applied during an exercise, often expressed as a percentage of your one-rep max (the maximum weight you can lift for a single repetition). Higher-intensity training stimulates muscle strength and power development.

Frequency: Frequency refers to how often you engage in strength training sessions per week. Finding the optimal balance between training frequency and recovery is essential for maximizing muscle adaptation while minimizing the risk of overtraining or injury.

Progression: Progression involves systematically increasing the demands placed on your muscles over time to stimulate further adaptation and growth. This can include gradually increasing the weight lifted, adding more sets or reps, or progressing to more challenging exercises as your strength and fitness levels improve.

3. Flexibility Exercises

Flexibility is the term used to describe the unrestricted and pain-free range of motion of muscles, joints, and soft tissues in the body. It denotes the ability of these structures to stretch, lengthen, and contract without any constraints, enabling seamless and effective movement.
Flexibility exercises like full-body stretching, yoga, and pilates are stretching motions that improve the range, elasticity, and mobility of muscles and joints. Flexibility exercises involve slowly and steadily stretching muscle groups without jerking or bouncing. To improve flexibility, a stretch should be held for at least 10 to 60 seconds.
By incorporating flexibility exercises and stretching routines into fitness regimens, individuals can promote a balanced and healthy musculoskeletal system, leading to better performance, posture, and overall body alignment.
Benefits: Flexibility plays a crucial role in individual health
  • Optimal Performance: Having good flexibility allows muscles and joints to move freely through their full range of motion, improving athletic performance and enhancing overall physical capabilities.
  • Correct Posture: Flexibility contributes to maintaining proper body alignment, reducing the risk of poor posture-related issues such as back pain or muscular imbalances.
  • Improved Movement: Flexible muscles and joints facilitate smooth and efficient movement patterns, making everyday activities and physical exercises easier and more comfortable.

4. Balance and Stability Exercises

These exercises focus on enhancing balance and coordination to prevent falls and improve overall stability. Balance training involves challenging the center of gravity by performing exercises such as standing on one leg, tai chi, heel-to-toe walking, specific yoga stances, and balance walks.
Balance training exercises develop the core, legs, and glute muscles, which are crucial for maintaining stability and proper body alignment. When your body is well balanced it makes you lighter on your feet and more capable of responding to changes in position and weight distribution while walking, exercising, or performing any movement.
Balancing exercises are a must for everyone, from young people looking to enhance performance to older adults aiming to reduce the risk of falls, balancing and stability exercises offer unmatched benefits.
What is Tai Chi?

Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese martial art also termed “moving meditation.” It is performed in a series of slow, gentle, and precise movements in a continuous and flowing manner, often accompanied by deep breathing techniques. Tai chi is practiced for centuries and emphasizes relaxation, balance, and harmony between the mind and body.

5. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

“Maximal health benefits in minimal time”

HIIT is a form of exercise that alternates between intense bursts of activity and short periods of rest (or lower intense activity between rounds). Repetitive bouts of highly intense effort followed by quick recovery time in between can increase calorie burn and body fat reduction in less time when compared to other exercises. Take the example of runners who alternate between sprints and jogging, this approach helps athletes push their limits and achieve better results compared to traditional steady-state training.
Let’s try, a few HIIT Workouts that require no equipment to get started:
a) Bodyweight HIIT Workout (20-30 Minutes)
  • Warm up your body: Start with some easy movements like stretching, leg swings, and arm circles to warm up your body.
  • Exercise Intervals: Choose 5-6 bodyweight exercises like Jump squats, push-ups, lunges, burpees, mountain climbers, and plank jacks. Do each exercise as hard as you can for 40 seconds.
  • Short Rests: Take a 20-second break after each exercise to catch your breath.
  • Keep Moving: Move from one exercise to the next without long breaks to keep your heart rate up.
  • Adjust to Your Level: Pick exercises that suit your fitness level, and if something feels too hard, try an easier version.
  • Cool Down: Finish with gentle movements and stretching to cool down and prevent muscle soreness.
With this simple Bodyweight HIIT Workout, you can get an effective and quick workout in just 20-30 minutes. It’s a great way to improve fitness, burn calories, and build strength using only your body weight. Remember to listen to your body, take breaks when needed, and have fun!

Example, Bodyweight HIIT Workout:

  • Jump Squats: 40 seconds
    Rest: 20 seconds
  • Push-ups: 40 seconds
    Rest: 20 seconds
  • Lunges: 40 seconds
    Rest: 20 seconds
  • Burpees: 40 seconds
    Rest: 20 seconds
  • Mountain Climbers: 40 seconds
    Rest: 20 seconds
  • Plank jacks: 40 seconds
    Rest: 20 seconds
  • Repeat the circuit 4-5 times.
b) Running HIIT
  • Sprint for 30 seconds at maximum effort.
  • Jog or walk slowly for 1 minute to recover.
  • Repeat the sprint-jog cycle for 10-15 minutes.
c) Tabata HIIT Workout (4 minutes per exercise)
Tabata is a popular and intense form of HIIT that involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by even shorter rest periods.
  • Workout Format: Choose one exercise (e.g., burpees, squats, push-ups, jumping lunges, etc.) to perform during the Tabata workout.
  • 20 Seconds of Work: Give your all during the exercise, performing it as intensely as possible for 20 seconds.
  • 10 Seconds of Rest: Take a quick 10-second rest after each 20-second exercise interval.
  • Repeat 8 Times: Complete 8 rounds of 20 seconds of exercise and 10 seconds of rest, totaling 4 minutes for each exercise.
  • Total Workout Time: If you choose one exercise, the entire Tabata HIIT workout will be 4 minutes. You can add more exercises to extend the total workout duration.
Remember, the key to HIIT workouts is to give maximum effort during the high-intensity intervals and use the short rest periods to recover before going all out again. You can modify the exercises and work-to-rest ratios based on your fitness level and preferences. Always warm up before starting a HIIT workout and cool down afterward to prevent injury and help your body recover properly.
What is the work-to-rest ratio?

“Work” means when you are active like while exercising and “rest” means when you are sedentary and taking time to recover from exertion. It’s like start and stop cycle, being active and resting.

The work-to-rest ratio is a straightforward calculation that indicates the balance between the amount of work needed to achieve training objectives and the rest required before starting again. Different challenges and activities will have different work-to-rest ratios, adjusting the work-to-rest ratio helps optimize workouts and facilitates faster recovery for better energy system development.

For example:

1:1 means work for the same time and rest for the same time, 2 minutes of work followed by four minutes of rest, or 1:0.5 means 1 minute of work followed by 30 seconds of rest.

For strength-focused sessions, a common ratio might be around 1:2 or 1:3, meaning for every set of lifting (work), there’s two to three times the duration of rest. This extended rest allows for sufficient recovery between sets, optimizing performance and muscle adaptation.

However, during high-intensity or conditioning-focused workouts, the ratio may shift to 1:1 or even 2:1, emphasizing shorter rest periods to challenge endurance and metabolic conditioning

*Note – Work-to-rest ratio may vary with individual experience level, training program, and individual recovery capacity.

6. Sports

Sports means any type of physical activity that involves skill improvement, strategy development, and healthy competition. Sports can be organized, recreational, or simply playful movement, but a common element among all sports is the engagement of physical effort and the enjoyment derived from participating in them.
Whether it’s competitive sports, leisurely cycling, taking a walk in nature, or playing games with friends, sports offer benefits like better physical health, mental well-being, and social interaction. Overall whether you engage in organized or recreational sports it is a powerful way to enrich one’s physical and emotional life.
Organized sports: Team sports or individual competitions with established rules and regulations like football, cricket, badminton, tennis, and many more.
Recreational sports: Physical activities performed for leisure and enjoyment, such as hiking, gardening, dancing, skipping, or playing recreational games.

7. Active Lifestyle

An active lifestyle includes incorporating more movement activities into your daily routines and tasks. For example, doing household chores, choosing to walk or cycle to work, rather than driving to a shopping center to go walking(if it’s nearby), taking stairs avoiding lifts, few steps after dinner. Activities that are in your capabilities and can be done anytime time of the day as these activities are a natural and integral part of daily life.
These various activities may not necessarily be classified as formal exercise but contribute to overall physical fitness and well-being. Everyday activities that involve movement contribute and add up to the day’s total physical activity.

How much exercise do I need every day?

You can start training a minimum of 3 days/week and a maximum of 6 days/week.

“Each week adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle-strengthening activity, according to the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans“.

Always keep in mind, whether you are training 3 days a week or training 6 days a week, you need to start with lower-intensity exercises and gradually grow towards high-intensity sessions. In starting it’s more important to follow a routine and everyday discipline for diet, training, and rest.
It doesn’t matter what exercise type you are choosing, just stick with the exercises you love to do the most for the start and stay motivated every day to accomplish them for a period. As you get ready to go for the next level you can optimize your exercise time and exercise type by combining a mix of strength training, aerobics, and other exercises, to work all the major muscles of your body.

Rest and Recovery are equally important as exercising

The body requires time to repair, the natural damage that occurs to muscles during exercise puts stress on our body. By allowing adequate time for rest and recovery between workouts and after exercising, the body can repair, rebuild, and strengthen itself effectively.
Recovery techniques help you come back with more energy for future workouts, enabling improved performance with less effort. Muscle development and nourishment occur during this “repair phase” when you’re resting and refueling your body.

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