What is the best kind of exercise for me?

There are three types of exercise: aerobic, resistance, and stretching. The word aerobic comes from the Greek word for air, and it refers to any regular, rhythmic exercise using the legs or arms that requires an increased breathing rate over a period of time. Aerobic exercise is what is needed to strengthen the cardiovascular system. Some aerobic activities are

• swimming
• fast walking
•jogging
• bicycle riding

Resistance exercise, important for building muscle and keeping it strong, draws largely on energy stored in muscles and does not require nearly as much oxygen. Resistance exercise involves activities in which the muscles meet resistance, such as in weight training or muscle conditioning. Lifting light weights with many repetitions versus using heavy weights with fewer repetitions will strengthen muscles at a steadier rate with less risk of injury. You can begin doing resistance exercises at home by lifting commonplace objects such as soup cans. Resistance exercise should be part of a healthy lifestyle to help keep muscles and bones strong and prevent hip and other bone fractures. When done properly, this type of exercise should pose little risk to your heart. However, avoid lifting heavy weights as this may lead to potentially dangerous increases in blood pressure. You must be the judge of what is excessive weight, as it is linked to your previous weight training.

Stretching keeps the muscles flexible. Stretching before engaging in any aerobic or resistance exercise is important, as it helps prevent injuries. Stretching is also a good way to relax. Yoga is an ancient Asian art that involves a lot of stretching. A good class in yoga or a related type of exercise, such as T’ai Chi, can help keep your muscles fit and relax you as well. Once you’ve learned these stretches, you can do some every day at home.

The greatest benefit to the heart comes from aerobic activity. It uses large muscles to get the heart pumping and the lungs filling with oxygen. Resistance exercise and stretching keep your muscles strong and flexible so you can continue your aerobic activity.

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