What Kinds of Exercises and Physical Activities Improve Health and Physical Ability?

Exercises generally fall into four main categories: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Though we describe them separately, some activities fit into several categories. For example, many endurance activities also help build strength, and strength exercises can help improve balance.



Endurance, or aerobic, activities increase your breathing and heart rate. These activities help keep you healthy, improve your fitness, and help you do the tasks you need to do every day. Endurance exercises improve the health of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. They also delay or prevent many diseases that are common in older adults such as diabetes, colon and breast cancers, heart disease, and others. Physical activities that build endurance include:
• Brisk walking
• Yard work (mowing, raking)
• Dancing
• Jogging
• Swimming
• Biking
• Climbing stairs or hills
• Playing tennis
• Playing basketball


Even small increases in muscle strength can make a big difference in your ability to stay independent and carry out everyday activities such as climbing stairs and carrying groceries. Some people call using weight to improve your muscle strength “strength training” or “resistance training.” Strength exercises include:
• Lifting weights
• Using a resistance band


Balance exercises help prevent falls, a common problem in older adults. Many lower-body strength exercises also will improve your balance. Exercises to improve your balance include:
• Standing on one foot
• Heel-to-toe walk
• Tai Chi


Stretching can help your body stay flexible and limber, which gives you more freedom of movement for your regular physical activity as well as for your everyday activities. To increase your flexibility, try:
• Shoulder and upper arm stretch
• Calf stretch 
• Yoga


Last modified on 17/07/2015