Science Has Discovered That Our Bodies Need 3 Different Kinds of Exercises
Knowing These Essentials Can Help You Avoid Injury!
After years of practicing and teaching fitness I’m struck by how few people, even doctors and health educators, know this basic truth about fitness. If I’d known about these essential exercises when I first developed a workout habit in my youth, I would have treated my body differently and avoided several injuries.
What Are the Essential Exercises
The most important fitness truth is that the body needs three kinds of exercise to be healthy – aerobics, strength training, and stretching. And here’s an even more important fact: any one of these alone will not keep you healthy!
For instance, aerobic exercise – brisk walking, running, swimming, biking, hiking, and most sports exercise – is great for your heart, but does not build muscle. Muscle-building exercise is essential because from about age 30, men and women lose muscle tissue – slowly but constantly – all over the body.
How important is muscle? First, it surrounds and protects all of our joints. If we neglect to restore muscle tissue, our joints become vulnerable to injury. A lack of muscle strength is the major cause of back, knee, and shoulder problems. Muscle also creates physical balance and stability which is critical to preventing falls and injuries – a particularly important issue for older adults because any fall can lead to serious injuries.
Why Are They So Important
Years ago I loved to jog. Still do. Back then that’s all I did for exercise. I ran miles nearly every day, felt great, and my heart rate indicated perfect health. Yet by my late twenties I was developing lower back pain and shoulder injuries from simple activities that never before caused problems, such as planting a ski pole and holding up a ceiling panel. I simply did not know that a lack of strength training to restore lost muscle tissue had left all my joints vulnerable to injury. The good news is that by simply adding strength training exercises regularly, I avoided surgery and no longer have any shoulder or back pain.
How Much Do We Need?
Cardiovascular exercise is recommended for 30 minutes 5 days a week or 75 minutes 3 days a week. Strength training is best every other day in order to allow critical recovery time that the body requires to build muscle tissue. Stretching which in my opinion is a cure-all can be done as often as you wish – the more the better, particularly as we get older.
The important point to remember is that anything you do for an exercise program must include all three of these exercise.
Which Methods Include All Three
There are only 2 exercise methods that combine all three essential exercises into one complete workout. They are Pilates mat exercise and rigorous swimming. That’s it!
And be sure you read it correctly – It’s Pilates MAT exercise and not the machinery. I don’t mean to discourage Pilates machinery, but it can’t be counted among exercise programs that combine all 3 necessary exercises. You simply can’t maintain a target heart rate for an effective cardio workout when you have to pause to make adjustments to a machine.
Incidentally, be careful of claims that circuit training can achieve a complete workout. If the machines require adjustment then as mentioned above, you can’t maintain your target heart rate. The Curves workout uses hydraulic equipment which requires no adjustment, and it’s very effective for achieving target heart rate, but stretching needs to be added at the end of the curves workout so I don’t strictly include this as a complete workout.
Which Method Is Best
The answer to this question is complicated. In my opinion based on many years trying nearly every exercise method out there, Pilates is the very best and I explain why in detail in my article on Pilates benefits. But I don’t believe it’s the right question! The most important issue is not what’s best but rather how do we maintain a life-long exercise discipline? To put it another way, how do we keep exercising in the face of the greatest single challenge anyone will ever face maintaining an exercise routine: boredom!
The real answer to this question is that no single exercise is a magic bullet. No exercise program is immune to boredom. So the real answer is that each of us must create a “tool bag” of many different exercise methods that we enjoy. This is critical for overcoming boredom and also responding to the science of “periodicity.”
Just a quick note about periodicity. This is also known as “muscle confusion” and it refers to the fact that muscles get accustomed to any activity and stop getting stronger no matter how hard we work! Ever notice how after a period of time perfecting a particular exercise, you feel very strong at it, but then go out and do something else even as simple as gardening or hiking and you wonder where all your strength went! What’s happened here is that you are strong for a particular activity and not for much of anything else! Putting a little variety into your workout routine creates muscle confusion which works your muscles differently and avoids this problem.
Your body’s health requires 3 different kinds of exercise. There are certain methods that combine all these exercises into one complete workout. The best is Pilates, but actually no single exercise is as good as a “tool bag” of many different enjoyable workouts that keep you exercising regularly for the rest of your life.