What are the three main types of exercise?

National Academy of Sports Medicine
National Academy of Sports Medicine

The three main types of exercise are aerobic, anaerobic and flexibility. Aerobic exercise is exercise which requires the use of oxygen to fuel the body for exercise demands. This form of exercise is traditionally thought of as cardiovascular exercise, such as running on a treadmill or cycling. Anaerobic exercise is a form of exercise that requires glucose for short intense workloads. Strength training and sprinting are forms of anaerobic exercise.

Flexibility training is a form training designed to increase range of motion of joints and lengthen muscles. Flexibility training is beneficial for reducing injury risk and enhancing overall functional movement.
The three main types of exercise are cardiovascular exercise, strength training and stretching. All three types of exercise are important for physical fitness.
  • Cardiovascular aerobic exercise is repetitive, rhythmic exercise that increases your heart rate and requires you to use more oxygen. It is often called aerobic exercise, cardiovascular exercise, or “cardio” for short.
  • Strength (or resistance) training is the process of building and maintaining muscles in the body by using progressively heavier weights (or resistance). It is also called resistance training, weight lifting, toning, and body building. Strength training is very important for maintaining muscle mass throughout your lifetime.
  • Stretching or lengthening your muscles helps you become more limber, which makes certain activities of daily living easier. Plus, the improved flexibility gained from stretching regularly helps you prevent injuries when you are performing everyday body movements and especially during exercise. Stretching also reduces muscle tension, increases circulation, and improves posture.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.