A well-rounded weekly exercise program should include a variety of activities from the three types of exercise:
- Aerobic exercises – These raise your heart rate during the activity and improve heart and lung fitness.
- Strength-training exercises – Also known as resistance or weight-training exercises, these use weights (including your own body weight) or a form of resistance to strengthen your muscles.
- Flexibility exercises – These use stretching to lengthen muscles and tendons.
It is also important to exercise your pelvic floor muscles several times a day, particularly if you have bladder or bowel issues, such as leaking or incontinence.
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To help avoid injury, it is important to begin each exercise session with a warm-up and finish with a cool-down.
The aim of warm-up activities is to make your muscles warm and ready to work, and to raise your heart rate slightly. This prepares your body for your exercise session.
A warm-up should include 5–10 minutes of low-intensity aerobic work mixed with some light stretching. Walking outside or using indoor equipment are good warm-up activities. Before strength training, it is a good idea to use light weights in your warm-up.
Training is the part of an exercise program when the work is done. Different types of training have specific effects on your body.
The cool-down allows your heart rate and blood pressure to gently return to normal. Also, a slow cool-down helps your body and muscles lose the heat gained during the activity.
A cool-down should involve 5–10 minutes of relaxed activity and/or light stretching.
If you have just finished an aerobic exercise session, slow walking or cycling is the best way to cool down. If you have done strength training, cool down with light stretching.
These diagrams show the major muscle groups of the human body.
Aerobic exercise focuses on improving your heart and lung fitness, but also works many of your body’s muscles. Strength-training and flexibility exercises both focus on the muscles, with individual exercises usually targeting specific muscle groups.