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Which Exercises Are the Best for You?

written by: Donna Cosmato • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 5/18/2011

Different body types, skill levels, and ages require different kinds of exercises. Find out more about the various categories and types of exercises, so you can choose the perfect workout routine for your lifestyle.

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    People exercise for a variety of reasons: to manage weight, protect their health, or just because it makes them feel good. However, choosing the right physical activity from all the different types of exercises can be puzzling.

    For instance, what's the best exercise for burning calories? How many kinds of exercise are there? Let's examine the answers to questions like these as we explore some exercise types, and learn how each kind benefits you. The three types of exercise examined here are: weight bearing, non-weight bearing, and resistance.

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    Weight Bearing Exercise

    In weight-bearing exercise, your weight is supported by the body, so gravity is working against the muscles. These exercises build bone and muscle mass, as well as reduce the amount of bone loss. This can be especially important for individuals with osteoporosis, but they should consult with their doctor before starting any type of weight bearing exercise.


    Furthermore, these exercises increase cardiovascular health, strengthen the immune system, and increase energy levels. Stress levels drop, and sleep is more beneficial.

    Some of the most popular types of weight bearing exercise are power walking, jogging, and jump rope. However, if these activities are not to your liking, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you can reap the same benefits from hobbies like gardening or playing soccer.

    Yard work, in particular raking leaves and pulling weeds, is an excellent example of a good weight-bearing activity. If you are still thinking, "This just isn't for me!", don't worry. Put on your dancing shoes and dance the night away, because dancing is also considered to be a weight bearing exercise.

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    Non-Weight Bearing Exercise

    In non-weight bearing exercise, the weight of the body is supported by an inanimate object, like a piece of exercise equipment or water. Cycling, swimming, rowing, and water aerobics are some of the most popular forms of non-weight bearing activities.


    Of these, water exercise is the best for building strong bones, while all these exercises build endurance, protect and improve the cardiovascular system, and prevent the risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease.

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    Resistance Training

    If you are wondering, "What in the world is resistance training?", it's probably because you are more familiar with it by the name of strength training. Here's a textbook definition from the Calorie Counter, "Resistance exercises, also called strength training, involves working the muscles against a form of resistance - usually a weight, although it also includes resistance offered by (say) an increased incline during walking, or bicycle pedals."1

    Weight Lifting 

    Before you tune out by thinking "Lifting weights is not for me!", relax. While weight training is certainly a form of resistive training, there are many other ways for you to get the same benefits without bench pressing 400 pounds. For instance, using resistance bands is an excellent way to enjoy these benefits, and the workout is simple and fun. The bands are incredibly portable, so they can pack and go wherever you go. Isometrics, free weights, and plyometrics are other types of resistance training.

    Resistance training builds strength, power, and endurance. If strength is your goal, focus on lower repetitions with higher weights. High repetitions with lighter weights increase muscle endurance.

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    Putting It All Together

    Planning an exercise routine is like planning a menu; there needs to balance and moderation. You may want to do resistance training several times a week, and balance it with weight or non-weight bearing exercise. For best results, consult your healthcare professional and discuss your goals. He or she knows your overall health history and can work with you to design an exercise program that is perfect for your individual needs.

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    Calorie Counter, What is Weight Bearing Exercise?

    Coaching Science Abstracts, Vol. 2 (1), Strength Training, "A Good Review of Research Into Strength"

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    Image Credits

    All images are from and used under the Morguefile Free License agreement

    Soccer - lisasolonynko

    Swimmers - dtcreations

    Weight lifter - dmscs