Running is probably the most effective exercise for burning calories due to its intensity. There are lots of arguments about how intense your runs should be for optimum fitness but most researchers agree that running in short bursts at high intensity is more beneficial to health, and burns more calories, than running for longer at a slower pace. Running is practically free anyway once you’ve purchased a good pair of trainers. The roads are better than treadmills since they’re not flat and this gives a better workout. The bad part about running is that it’s tough on your joints and as we get older they get worse anyway, so pounding your knees on tarmac a couple of times a week doesn’t do them much good.
Cycling is much easier on the joints than running is plus it still offers great health benefits. It builds up thigh muscles and increases overall fitness while burning plenty of calories. Cycling doesn’t have to be limited to a commute to work or a gentle ride through the park. In fact, spinning offers a much higher intensity workout than running does. (A spin class involves several people on stationary bikes ramping up their speed and incline according the instructor’s orders) Around 400-600 calories on average are burned during one spin class but they are not for those who are very unfit. Going from no exercise to spinning can pose dangers such as heart attacks if your body is not used to the intensity, especially if you are already at-risk for heart-related illnesses.
Swimming is a low-intensity workout but of course, depending on speed and stroke, intensity can increase significantly. Front crawl is more tiring, so doing this non-stop for just half an hour will burn plenty of calories. What’s great about swimming is that the water naturally cools you down so you won’t feel too hot or sweaty. In addition, it’s kind to your joints and it requires you to use both the upper body and lower body, which means all your muscles are worked. This in turn can increase your metabolism more than most other exercises.
If increasing your metabolism is your goal than weightlifting and strength training is the way to go. This kind of workout can increase metabolic rate by about 15% for roughly three hours, sometimes more, depending on how vigorous the session was. Just having an increase in muscle means you burn more calories even while you rest.
Maintaining muscle mass is important for older people since it naturally decreases over time. The older you become, the more frail you become, so making sure you’re as strong as you can be can prevent against falls and other injuries. If you have creaky joints, then a little resistance training can really help to strengthen the area and help ward off arthritis.
Yoga originated in India roughly 5000 years ago and it’s great for strengthening muscles and improving flexibility. Not only this, but yoga improves balance and posture, aides sleep and relaxation, conquers back pain and relieves stress. So not only is it great for the body but it’s great for the mind too. Its calming effect can help even the most stressed out people feel relaxed.
While yoga may not burn as many calories as say, running, it is still a good way to exercise because it works all your muscles at once, much like swimming does. It requires strength, good balance and agility to hold poses, so over time you will improve. Yoga can be done by anyone young or old and there are varying classes for all abilities.
So depending on what you’re looking for these exercises can really improve your fitness. If you want something high intensity but kind to your joints, try swimming or cycling. If you want to build up your strength, flexibility and tone your body, try yoga or weightlifting. If you want to burn lots of calories for free, then running is for you.
Written by Ruth Tongue