While celebrating American Heart Month during the month of February, I’ve talked about the importance of physical activity in relationship to heart health…

Today, I’ll break down the five components of an exercise routine and how each contributes to your overall health. I feel best if I can find the time during the week to fit in all four types of exercise into my workout routine; I feel even better if I can fit in a little active recovery.


So what are the four types of exercise?

  • • Strength
  • • Endurance
  • • Flexibility
  • • Balance
  • • Recovery – not a type of exercise, but a very important part of any exercise routine



Strength training, also known as resistance training or weight lifting, rebuilds muscle mass lost through a sedentary lifestyle and the natural aging process. Strength training exercises can be performed using body weight, machines, dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, bands, medicine balls, etc.

For best results, allow the muscles worked to recover and rebuild for 48 hours before working them again. The American Heart Association recommends at least two days of moderate to high intensity strength training workouts per week, and I try my best to fit in three one-hour sessions weekly. At 60 years old, my muscle atrophy at a rapid rate so it is imperative that I stay as strong as possible.



Cardiovascular training, also known as aerobic training, challenges your heart by increasing its workload resulting in improved endurance and a positive affect on your heart. Cardiovascular training consists of walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing, and similar type activities.

For best results, gradually increase your time performing aerobic activities. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise five days a week or at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days per week. If 25 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity seems too difficult or time consuming to do at first, try breaking down your workouts into 10 to 15-minute segments.

When I was younger and in full blown marathon training mode, I ran six days a week with little to no ill effects. Today; however, that much running today would result in overtraining injuries so I have cut my running back to three one-hour-minimum runs per week, meeting the AHA recommendations.



Stretching, or flexibility training, involves gradually elongating your muscles while increasing their elasticity and range of motion. Pliable muscles will be more forgiving during sudden movements in physical activity and less likely to tear. Flexibility training consists of static stretching, dynamic stretching, yoga, and pilates.

I’m not very good at stretching immediately after my runs, but I have gotten pretty good at doing a 10 to 30-minute yoga routine several times per week.



Balance training is increasingly important the older we get. Loss of lower body and core strength can be major culprits in loss of balance, resulting in falls in older adults.

Balance exercises can be incorporated into daily life, not just when working out. Some examples include:

  • • Standing on one leg while brushing your teeth in the morning and the other leg when brushing them at night
  • • Closing your eyes with one foot in front of the other while waiting for your coffee to brew
  • • Walking heel-to-toe on a straight line while on hold on a phone call



Recovery is a very important part of our exercise plan. Just as it’s important to challenge our muscles by lifting heavier weights and push ourselves faster when training for a race, it’s important to allow our bodies to recover in preparation for the next workout.  Types of recovery include rest, foam rolling, ice or heat therapy, and massage therapy.

Failure to take the time to allow your body to recover after pushing it hard during exercise sessions can result in over training, injury, and subsequently time away from your favorite activities.


Whether you’re working on strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, or recovering from one of your workouts, listen to your body. Make adjustments as necessary to get the most out of your exercise routine.


  • • Which exercise components are most important to you?
  • • Do you focus on one component more than others?
  • • Do you take time for recovery?