Types of Physical Activity

Types of Physical Activity

What can I do and how much do I have to do it?

There are four types of fitness that are important to incorporate into your physical activity routine:

  1. Cardiovascular/aerobic exercise
  2. Anaerobic exercise
  3. Joint flexibility
  4. Muscular endurance and strength

1. Cardiovascular/aerobic exercise

  • Cardiovascular fitness relates to the ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems (the heart, the blood vessels and lungs) to supply oxygen during sustained physical activity. It is also referred to as cardiovascular endurance, aerobic fitness and cardio-respiratory fitness.
  • Some examples of activities that may incorporate cardiovascular fitness are: running, walking, cycling, rowing, stair-climbing and dancing.
  • Canada's Physical Activity Guide recommends that adults perform moderate cardiovascular exercise for a total of 60 minutes a day, most days of the week.
  • Aerobic means "involving oxygen." It means your muscles are working in an oxygen-rich environment. You get more oxygen by breathing deeply. Twelve minutes of aerobic exercise causes your body to produce fat-burning enzymes. An aerobic exercise is one that fits the following four requirements:
    • Is steady, nonstop
    • Lasts 12 minutes minimum
    • Has a comfortable pace
    • Uses the muscles of the lower body
  • You have to be doing some work to get the benefit. Your heart rate and your breathing need to be elevated. But you don't want to push too hard. One way to measure if your activity is too hard or fast is a simple talk test. Try talking to a friend while you're exercising. If you can't carry on a conversation without huffing and puffing for breath, then you need to slow down. If you're able to have a conversation without stopping every now and then for a breath, then you need to go a bit faster.
  • Follow Canada's Physical Activity Guide to determine how much is enough for you. Remember that every little bit counts, so start slowly and work your way up.

2. Anaerobic exercise

  • Anaerobic means "lack of oxygen." Your muscles are working in an oxygen-deprived state. This causes your body to produce sugar-burning enzymes. You are expending energy faster than your body can replace it by metabolizing oxygen.
  • An anaerobic exercise is any activity that fails to meet the above four requirements. An aerobic activity can become anaerobic if the heart rate is elevated above the training zone for a long period of time. Any start/stop activities would qualify. Examples include: tennis, football, sprinting, skiing and weight training.

3. Joint flexibility

  • Flexibility is a health-related component of physical fitness that refers to the range of motion available at a joint, such as your knees or shoulders. Some experts specify that flexibility requires range of motion without discomfort or pain (Howley and Franks, 1997).
  • Since flexibility is specific to each joint of the body, there is no general measurement of flexibility as there is for cardiovascular fitness. Flexibility is typically measured in the field with tests such as the sit-and-reach. Excellent examples of activities that improve flexibility are yoga and stretching exercises.

4. Muscular endurance and strength

  • Muscular endurance is a health-related component of physical fitness that refers to the muscle's ability to continue to perform without fatigue.
  • Like flexibility, muscular endurance is specific in nature. For true assessment of muscular endurance, it would be necessary to test each major muscle group of the body. Lab and field tests of muscular endurance are similar and are based on the number of repetitions that can be performed by the specific muscle group being tested; for example, repetitions of push-ups or abdominal crunches.
  • Muscular strength is a health-related component of physical fitness that refers to the ability of the muscle to exert force.
  • For a true assessment of strength, it would be necessary to test each major muscle group of the body. Laboratory and field tests are similar and involve the assessment of 1 RM (repetition maximum: the maximum amount of resistance you can overcome one time). Examples include broad jump, vertical jump, and bench press.