Research has shown that it’s important to get all four types of exercises: cardio (endurance), strength, balance, and flexibility (stretching). Doing one kind also can improve your ability to do the others. Always remember to warm-up before and cool-down after you exercise.
Click on each of these exercise types to learn more:
Cardiovascular exercises, such as walking, increase your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time.
Strength exercises are designed to strengthen all of the major muscle groups in the upper and lower body.
Balance exercises can be done almost anytime, anywhere, and helps you maintain balance for everyday tasks.
Flexibility exercises are an important part of your physical activity program, helping you be able to keep doing everyday tasks without pain.
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Endurance (cardiovascular) exercises increase your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time. This is important to perform everyday activities such as climbing stairs, grocery shopping, and doing housework without too much fatigue and exhaustion.
You can build up your stamina gradually, starting with as little as 5 minutes of activity at a time. Then try to build up to 30 minutes of activity on at least 3 days of the week, eventually increasing up to 5 days per week. Examples of cardiovascular activities include walking, biking, vacuuming, sweeping, and dancing.
Remember to stretch before and after you
do cardiovascular and strength exercises
Walking is the easiest cardiovascular activity and requires no special equipment other than good walking shoes. Learn more about ways to increase your walking in the section below.
Ways to Increase Your Walking
- If you go to the grocery store, walk 1 extra lap around the store before or after you have your groceries.
- If you are at a medical appointment, do a lap up and down the hall before or after your appointment, or while waiting.
- If you are watching TV, walk up and down the longest hallway in your home during TV commercials. You can also march in place either seated or standing, pumping arms at the side or tap your toes or heels out in front. Add more arm movements such as punching out to the front or raising arms over head.
- If the weather is fair, walk down to the mailbox multiple times.
- If you have a stationary bike, you could do this as a substitute for some of your walking time.
- Take the stairs in your home multiple times.
- Walk into town or walk around your neighborhood or farm with a friend.
For more information, see the Exercise is Medicine Cardiovascular Fact Sheet.
Strength (Muscle-Strengthening) Exercises
Strength exercises are designed to strengthen all of the major muscle groups in the upper body (shoulders, upper arms, back, chest) and in the lower body (hips, thighs, knees, and lower legs).
Strength exercises involve lifting—either with your own body weight or using a resistance band, then lowering what you’ve lifted in a smooth motion.
- The full motion is then repeated 8-12 times to make a full “set” or group of repetitions (or "reps").
You might hear the phrase, “Do ___ reps (repetitions) per set (one set of motions).”
- DO strength exercises 2-3 days per week.
- DO rest for 2 minutes in between exercises.
- DON'T perform the exercises quickly. They should be done in a slow, controlled motion.
Don’t hold your breath during strength exercises
and make sure you breath regularly throughout.
Rest for 2 minutes in between exercises.
Try some of the Strength Exercises below (open each PDF for details on how to perform the exercise). This section includes strength exercises in four levels:
Level I: strengthens your body slowly and gently, using your own body weight
Level II: introduces exercises using resistance bands to increase strength
Level III: adds variety with new ways to improve strength
For more information, see Exercise is Medicine Strength Fact Sheet.
Balance exercises can be done along with strengthening exercises, on the same days. However, it is safe to do your balance exercises almost anytime, anywhere, and as often as you like, as long as you have something sturdy nearby to hold on to.
Good balance is needed for tasks such as walking and picking up objects from the ground.
While you perform balance exercises, have a sturdy chair
or a person nearby to hold on to if you feel unsteady.
Try some of the Balance Exercises below (open each PDF for details on how to perform the exercise). As you go up in numbers, the exercises get harder.
#2 Single Leg Stance
#3 Heel Raises
#4 Foot Taps on Cone or Step
#5 Single Leg Side Hold
#6 Semi-Tandem Stance
#7 Lateral Stepping
#8 Clock Reach
#9 Tandem Stance
#10 Same Side Single Leg & Arm Hold
#11 3-Way Hip Kick
#12 Heel to Toe Walk
For more information, see the Exercise is Medicine Balance Fact Sheet.
Flexibility (Stretching) Exercises
Flexibility (Stretching) exercises are an important part of your physical activity program.
Stretching your lower body is important to ensure tasks such as putting your shoes on and picking up items from the floor remain easy and pain free.
Stretching your upper body is important to ensure tasks such as brushing your hair and retrieving items from a high shelf (getting food or putting away groceries) remain easy and pain free.
Don't stretch so far that it hurts. Always remember to breath normally.
Stretch gently and smoothly, and do not bounce.
It is safe to perform stretching exercises all days of the week. Try to do stretching at least 3-5 times per week with your cardiovascular and strength exercises.
Try some of the Flexibility Exercises below (open each PDF for details on how to perform the exercise).
For more stretches visit the Arthritis Foundation’s Walk with Ease Exercise Videos.