Exercise and physical activity fall into four basic categories—endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Most people tend to focus on one activity or type of exercise and think they’re doing enough. Each type is different, though. Doing them all will give you more benefits. Mixing it up also helps to reduce boredom and cut your risk of injury.
Endurance is your ability to perform physical activity over time. You might be able to serve aces and hit winning forehands and backhands, but if your muscles cramp or you run out of energy after a few games, you won’t win any matches. You build endurance by exercising for longer periods without stopping, working at a slower speed than when you interval train. This type of exercise is usually aerobic, calling on your slow-twitch muscle fibers and burning more fat than glycogen, depending on the speed you work. The slower you work, the higher percentage of your calories burned comes from fat.
Employing a right mix of two or more of the aforementioned types of training can promote well-rounded physical fitness. For example, a combination of agility training and eccentric training is useful in sports that require strength, endurance, and coordination such as basketball and football. A combination of strength training and continuous training benefits individuals who want to maintain a certain type of physique.
To get in top physical shape, you’ll need to work on three different areas of cardiorespiratory fitness. Capacity is the amount of work you can do, such as how fast you can perform a sprint or dash. Stamina refers to how long you can exercise. For example, a sprinter is faster than a marathon runner, but probably can’t run as long or as far as the marathoner. Anaerobic conditioning helps you work at very high intensities and helps you recover more quickly afterward. For example, many basketball players have no problem making fast breaks down the court, but afterward, you see them grabbing their knees, gasping for breath as they try to recover. Interval training consists of many high-intensity bursts of activity, each followed by a recovery period. These recovery periods, which occur many times during an interval workout, help you improve your ability to catch your breath after a point or play and recover for the start of the next one.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans were created by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. This publication recommends that all adults should avoid inactivity to promote good health mentally and physically. For substantial health benefits, adults should participate in at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.
Physical fitness includes having a strong heart, powerful muscles, balance and agility, muscular endurance and speed and quickness. To improve your fitness in these areas, you'll need to create different workouts by varying the intensities at which you perform your exercises, such as using more resistance to build strength, and working at higher speeds for short durations to build speed. For many people, basic fitness includes your ability to perform physical activity with a sound cardio, strength and endurance base.
Strength, cardiovascular endurance, balance, agility and flexibility should be the goals of any well-rounded fitness program. But how do you go about developing these skills? The key is variety. Don't spend all your time in the weight room or on the treadmill. Include different types of fitness training in your routine and you'll see better overall results in your exercise performance and how your body performs and feels in daily life.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.