Understanding the different types of exercise and their benefits

January 19, 2021

There are several different types of exercise, and understanding what they are, their benefits and how they can impact you is important for maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. Ideally, we should be targeting the four main areas below. However, the main priority is doing any exercise or activity that you enjoy! This means you are more likely to stick to it longer term and have a positive impact on your health.

Here are the main different types of exercise and their benefits:


This includes any type of training that involves either weight training (e.g with weights or resistance bands), bodyweight exercises, or a combination of these, and can even include exercise classes like Pilates. We should aim to build strength on 2 days a week to maintain muscle, bone and joint health.

The benefits of strength training go beyond helping you to get stronger muscles – it has an overall impact on your health too, reducing the risk of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. It is also important in maintaining muscle mass and function as we age – muscle starts to decline steadily once we reach the age of 30, a process called sarcopenia, showing why it is so important to keep our muscles active as we age.


This involves any type of training that gets your heart rate and breathing rate up, typically over a more prolonged period of time. Aerobic activity has been shown to have a positive effect on both physical and mental wellbeing. This includes reducing the risk of many conditions such as cancers, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia and other cognitive dysfunctions, as well as reducing levels of inflammation in the body and, in moderation, improving immune system function. Any weight bearing exercise also has a positive impact on bone health, helping to keep bones strong and develop when we are young, and helping with bone repair as we age.

Aerobic and resistance exercise actually stimulate muscles to release certain chemicals that increase the growth of new neurons in the brain, therefore directly affecting brain cell growth and reducing the risk of developing cognitive deterioration later in life. In addition, mood boosting and analgesic effects have been found due to release of chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins.

Aerobic exercise can include lots of activities from walking and swimming, to cycling, running and playing sports. The current government guidelines suggest that we should be doing at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, and 75 minutes of vigorous. When exercising moderately, your breathing rate and heart rate should be increased, but you should still be able to talk in short sentences or a few words. Vigorous activity should result in a faster breathing rate and more difficulty talking.

Both resistance and aerobic training are suitable for everyone, as the type and intensity of exercise can be adjusted to suit individual levels or needs.

HIIT (high intensity interval training)

This is a great way to get in some vigorous cardiovascular activity in a shorter space of time. HIIT involves short bursts of high intensity exercise (which can be anything from cycling to squat jumps or burpees), with short recovery/rest period in between the high intensity intervals. An example of this could be 30seconds of hard cycling on a static bike, followed by 30seconds of easy cycling, repeated 10-20 times. The hard cycling intervals could be alternated with a different exercise such as squat jump or jump lunges to increase variety and challenge!

Balance and flexibility

This is something we should aim to do on 2 days of the week, and is especially important for older adults to maintain mobility and reduce the risk of falls. This can include activities such as tai chi, yoga, Pilates and dance. These types of exercise also have a positive benefit on mood and general wellbeing due to the calming and meditative nature of these types of activities.

‘Some is good, more is better’

Although the current guidelines suggest 150 minutes of moderate and 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, this is the minimum recommended amount…you will get better results and benefits for your health if you can do more! Remember, this can include walking, taking the stairs and cycling. The key is to increase overall activity levels and reduce time spent being sedentary.


If you need some extra guidance or motivation to get started, or would like to get involved in a different activity, get in touch by contacting us at info@physiotherapymatters.co.uk, or take a look at our class timetable. We are currently running classes in partnership with Health and Exercise Matters including Physiotherapy Led Pilates, Personal training, Golf Strength and Conditioning, and Stable and Able.

No matter whether your condition was caused by a sport, work accident or otherwise, we welcome the chance to serve you.

Book an Appointment