Practicing the 4 types of fitness for health gives you the best shot at a healthier future
What's the first thing you think of when you hear the word "exercise"?
Maybe a form of aerobic exercise like running, cycling or swimming. Maybe doing a celebrity DVD session in the lounge or some weight work at a gym? Walking the dog?
These are all great forms of exercise, especially if you enjoy them. You’ve got a head start towards a healthier future, because happening across your ideal form of exercise is a bit like waiting for The One to turn up in your life.
Why does it matter?
However, while finding one kind of exercise you really enjoy is at least half the battle to better fitness, an exercise programme isn’t an exercise programme if it doesn’t address all 4 basic types of fitness.
So before you slink off saying you get all you need from taking the dog out twice a day, here’s a reminder of why you need a fully-rounded approach to exercise for a healthier future.
I want to encourage you (and remind myself!) to create an exercise programme that works for you (and me). And when it comes to doing the planning, it’s so easy to focus on the things you like to think about, which means that you run the risk of leaving the other stuff to fall by the wayside.
We all need a to be reminded from time to time why we do what we do.
Here I am to remind us all of the benefits of each type of fitness. Not to make you feel guilty because you’re not doing something. Or to bully you into doing something you don’t want to do.
I really don’t want you to feel over-faced and give up before you start. It’s hard enough to work out how to fit in exercise that addresses 1 or 2 of these, let alone all 4 basic types of fitness.
No, my real goal here is to remind you - and myself - that going all in on one type of fitness and forgetting about the others - while it will probably help your overall health in some ways - means you still have ways to improve overall fitness for a healthier future which you haven’t yet explored.
The 4 types of fitness for health
OK, that’s enough background and navel-gazing. Now let’s cut to the chase (finally!).
It’s not news to suggest that doing aerobic exercise is an essential part of being fitter. Aerobic activities promote endurance. They keep your heart, lungs and circulatory system healthy and improve overall fitness.
When choosing endurance exercise, there’s no doubt that the effect your chosen exercise will have on your mental health really matters. If you enjoy an exercise, you’re more likely to do it. It’s not cheating to go for activities like gardening, dancing or playing golf if these float your boat.
If your endurance is in order, you can more easily survive the everyday physical tasks you need to do and you’ll get less tired throughout the day.
Another benefit of doing endurance exercise is that by definition the time you spend doing it is time you’re not spending sitting down doing nothing. Sitting motionless for long periods is definitely not good for your health so being up and moving is always a good thing.
Strength training doesn’t necessarily mean going to a sweaty gym and lifting Olympic-sized weights until you’re completely muscle bound. You can improve muscle strength quite nicely by doing some form of resistance training. Yes, you can use weights for this, but resistance bands and your own body weight will do very well.
Strength training is an important part of preparing your body as it gets older - particularly for women, as it helps prevent osteoporosis - the loss of bone density which comes with aging.
Increasing muscle mass also increases your metabolic rate effectively, so that as muscle mass increases, the amount of fuel they burn also goes up. In short, the greater your muscle mass, the more calories you burn.
Core strength - aka the condition of the stomach and back muscles, including those deep inside you - helps you to control your posture. This means fewer aches and pains as you get older. Good core strength will also help with balance, of which more later.
One often overlooked aspect of strength is grip strength. I once had a really thorough overall health and fitness test. As a woman in my mid-fifties who gets regular exercise , I was shocked at my overall assessment result, which was lower than expected, even though I performed well on most measures. The reason?I had poor grip strength, which is apparently a very good indicator of overall health in ageing. Needless to say, I went straight out and bought a grip trainer.
As I’ve got older, I’ve really started to notice how important it is to try to stay flexible, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. The popularity of yoga is just one indicator of how many people take their flexibility seriously.
Good flexibility means a general freedom of movement. Keeping it up should mean you’re able to tie your own shoelaces well into later life. You can stand, sit and lie down more comfortably.
It also helps combat all the aches and pains that come from daily life as well as all the other forms of exercise you’re now doing!
It can be a bit more difficult to immediately see all the benefits of working on your balance. Obviously, good balance means you’re less likely to fall over. But what else? How is balance one of the 4 basic types of fitness?
Well, I can tell you from experience that as my balance has improved, my confidence has improved. There’s nothing like being able to plant your feet on the earth and know that they belong there. It makes me feel that I can stand my ground if I need to, and that I am strong. I can heartily recommend building in balance work for a healthier future.
Good balance also pays back when it comes to the other aspects of fitness. It will help you hold your yoga poses, improve your golf swing, keep up with your dance partner.
Try to work on all 4 types of fitness if you can.
So there you are; 4 basic types of fitness that will stand you in good stead as you plan towards a healthier future. I’m going to be taking a good look at different ways of working them all into a practical programme which won’t ruin your (or my) social life and show respect for work commitments and home life.