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Exercise Basics

There are four main categories of exercise— aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance. Each category of exercise has different health benefits. Try doing a mix of different exercise categories to be your healthiest self.


Aerobic exercise is what many people think of when they think of physical activity. Aerobic activity helps keep your heart and lungs strong. It is normal for your breathing and heart rate to change when you’re doing aerobic exercise.

woman jumping rope
Jumping Rope
woman running
woman swimming

Aerobic exercise can help you:

  • Chase after your kids or grandchildren
  • Climb the stairs
  • Reduce risk of falls 

It’s important to check with your doctor before starting any new aerobic activity, especially if you have any pre-existing heart conditions. 


Strength exercise is sometimes called resistance training. This type of exercise focuses on strengthening your muscles. You can do strength exercises with equipment, such as weights, or you can use your own body weight. Keep your muscles strong by doing strength activities at least two days per week. 

woman doing pushups
Push up
Man doing squats
Woman doing plank pose
Plank pose

Strength exercises can help you:

  • Carry your kids or grandchildren
  • Pick up and set down heavy groceries
  • Climb strairs

See our section on equipment swaps for ideas on how to use items around the house in your workouts instead of purchasing weights and other equipment. 


You can count on stretching to help you with many daily activities. Flexibility keeps your muscles "elastic" (like a rubber band!). It helps you reach for items far away. It also can help prevent and reduce pain. 

Man bending over and touching toes
woman doing a side stretch
Man doing a yoga pose

Flexibility exercises can help you:

  • Dress yourself
  • Have less pain
  • Improve your posture


Balance exercises help keep you steady, whether you are standing still or walking. These are important to prevent injuries and falls. For some people, working on your balance can help clear your mind and reduce stress.

man doing hamstring stretch
Hamstring Stretch
woman doing leg lift
Leg Lift
woman doing tai chi
Tai Chi

Balance exercises can help you:

  • Reduce risk of falls 
  • Carry heavy items
  • Change directions quickly