Exercise and Keeping Fit: Types of Physical Activity and How Much Is Recommended?

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rise in mental health cases and a decline in physical activity, as many people stay indoors due to social distancing. However, exercise is very helpful in lifting moods and countering symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety. Keep reading to find out what types of physical fitness and wellness activities would work for you. 

Why keeping fit matters

Studies have shown that getting sufficient physical activity could prevent 1 in 10 premature deaths. There are innumerable benefits for children, adults, and the elderly. For children, exercise can improve attention span and academic performance. For adults, exercise can lower the risk of high blood pressure and prevent weight gain. Finally, for the elderly, an active lifestyle can help to delay the onset of cognitive decline. 

The economic and physical costs of inactivity can be tremendous. Not getting enough physical activity costs money. For instance, you may take more sick days off at work, thus increasing overall health care costs. 

How much activity is recommended? 

Regular fitness activity has tremendous benefits for everyone. Here, we share a table on the different physical activities that are recommended for each age group. 

Preschool children (3-5 years)  Active play every day throughout enjoyable physical activities 
Children and adolescents (6-17 years)  3 days a week of vigorous activity that strengthens muscles and bones e.g., running, soccer, gymnastics, push-ups, climbing, or jumping rope 
Adults (18-64 years)  At least 150 mins a week of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking 

At least 2 days a week of activities that strengthens muscles 

Older adults (65 years and older)  At least 150 mins a week of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking 

At least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles 

Activities to improve balance such as standing on one foot 

Adults with chronic conditions and disabilities  At least 150 mins of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week 

At least 2 days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that include all major muscle groups 

Pregnant and postpartum women  At least 150 mins of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week such as brisk walking during pregnancy and the postpartum period 

Types of activity 

Exercise can be segmented into 2 types: aerobic and anaerobic. 

Aerobic exercise 

Aerobic exercises are cardiovascular conditioning moves that strengthen both your heart and lungs. This type of exercise is fueled by the oxygen you get from breathing. As you exercise, your muscles need more oxygen to keep going. This causes your heart rate to go up and make you breathe deeper. While doing aerobic exercise, your small blood vessels dilate to carry more oxygen to large muscle groups such as arms, legs, and hips. Aim to do any aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes or longer, involving repeated and continuous movement.

Types of aerobic exercises include: 

  • Running or jogging 
  • Walking at a brisk pace 
  • Swimming 
  • Rowing 
  • Cycling 
  • Jumping rope 
  • Skiing 
  • Stair climbing 
  • Dancing 

Health benefits of aerobic exercise 

Aerobic exercise provides benefits to your cardiovascular health, and has been utilised to prevent and manage heart diseases. It may also lowers chances of other conditions such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, stroke, and metabolic syndrome. 

It also helps you control your weight and release endorphins which put you in a better mood for a good night’s sleep. 

Anaerobic exercise 

Anaerobic exercises refers to high-intensity exercises that are designed to be short and fast, and is meant to help you build muscle mass. Oxygen isn’t needed as the source to keep your muscles going. However, your body will use the energy already stored in your muscles. Anaerobic exercises should be repeated for only around 10-15 seconds because these powerful movements can’t be sustained for a long period of time.  

When doing anaerobic exercises over many months, your muscles experience hypertrophy. This causes your muscles to increase in mass and power through the stretching, contraction, and damage done to your muscles during exercise. 

Examples of anaerobic exercises include: 

  • Weight lifting 
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT) 
  • Calisthenics, e.g. jumps and squats 
  • Plyometrics 

Before starting an anaerobic workout, it is important to warm up your body 5 minutes by walking, stretching, or jogging. Work the large muscle groups first, such as the arms and legs. Always cool down after the workout by stretching also.

Health benefits of anaerobic exercise 

During anaerobic exercise, you will burn calories and improve your cardiovascular health. In addition to building muscle mass, doing resistance training such as lifting weights can help you build bone mass and density. This helps in bone strengthening. It also improves blood glucose control which helps your body utilize insulin and blood sugar more efficiently. 

4 most important types of exercise 

According to Harvard Medical School, the most important types of exercise are aerobics, stretching, balance, and strengthening. 

Best examples of each exercise: 

  • Aerobic: Marching in place 
  • Strength training: Squat 
  • Stretching: Single knee rotation 
  • Balance exercises: Standing knee lift 

How to be physically active while social distancing? 

You may be worried about getting infected with the coronavirus in this pandemic, so here are some creative ways to be physically active while maintaining social distancing from others: 

  1. Instead of joining group fitness classes, try streaming a fitness class online in your own home 
  2. No weights at home? Try lifting detergent or canned goods 
  3. Take a walk, run, or quiet bike ride in a very quiet neighborhood 
  4. Workout videos, dancing, or video games are great ways to get moving at home 
  5. Household chores and gardening will keep you fit 
  6. If you feel lonely, post your physical activity plans to social media and invite your network to move along with you! 

Staying connected while being physically active is super important for mental health. If you liked this article, do share it with your friends and start making workout plans! 

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