Physical activity such as strength training and weight training have different benefits for the body.

Before you start planning a routine of regular physical activities for yourself, take some time to learn more about the different types of physical activity that you can engage in.

Physical activities vary in terms of their intensity, duration, and the benefits they provide for your body. Vary your physical activity to get the most out of your routine.

Types of Physical Activity

When engaging in regular physical activity or planning your physical activity routine, it is important for you to know the types of physical activity that you should engage in and the benefits they provide.

Aerobic activity makes you breathe harder and your heartbeat faster. As a result, increases heart and lung fitness. Examples include brisk walking, dancing, cycling, jogging, swimming and playing basketball.

Muscle-strengthening activity increases bone strength and muscular fitness. Such activities should work all the major muscle groups of your body, that is, the legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms. Examples include doing different exercises that use your body weight for resistance (e.g. push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups and squats), working with a resistance band and weight training.

Moderate and Vigorous Aerobic Exercise

To gain health benefits, it is recommended that a healthy adult engages in either:​​

  • at  least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, or
  • 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week.

The good news is that you can:

  • Combine moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity in a week for more variety.
  • Do the aerobic exercise or activity in shorter bouts (e.g., 10-minute HIIT). You don't have to do the 20 or 30 minutes at one go. 

How do I measure intensity? Intensity is how hard your body is working during aerobic activity. Let's take a look at the difference between moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activities.

Moderate-Intensity Aerobic Activity

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity causes a slight increase in breathing and heart rate. However, you are still able to talk but not sing during the activity. You should also be perspiring. Examples include:

  • Brisk walking (5 km/hr)
  • Leisure cycling (<16 km/hr)
  • Leisure swimming
  • Playing doubles tennis
  • Line-dancing

Vigorous-Intensity Aerobic Activity

Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity will cause your heart rate to increase significantly. You will find yourself breathing hard and fast, and find it hard to hold a conversation with someone.

Examples of vigorous-intensity physical activity include:

  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming continuous laps
  • Playing singles tennis
  • Rollerblading at a fast pace
  • Playing basketball or football
  • Skipping with a rope

These activities may vary in intensity between individuals depending on the effort put in and their fitness levels.

Aerobic Exercise or Activity Intensity Guide

To help you gauge more accurately how hard you have been exercising, you can use the Intensity Guide below. If you prefer to exercise at moderate intensity, you should work towards 64%-75% of your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR).

If you are aiming for vigorous intensity, you should work towards 76%-95% of your Maximum Heart Rate. [Note: Maximum Heart Rate = 220 – Your Age]. If you are aiming for vigorous intensity, you should work towards 76%-95% of your Maximum Heart Rate. [Note: Maximum Heart Rate = 220 – Your Age]

Please access this link and learn how to calculate your heart-rate range to identify your exercise intensity level.

Determining Your Level of Aerobic Intensity

Take the following steps to determine your desired intensity:

Step 1At the end of your activity, take your pulse to measure your heart rate.

Your pulse can be felt on your wrists and neck. Count the number of beats for 15 seconds
Step 2Obtain your heart rate by multiplying the number of beats by 4.
Step 3Using the Intensity Guide above, read off from your Age and calculated heart rate (in Step 2) to determine whether you have been exercising in your desired intensity.

For example, if you are 40 years old, your MHR is 220–40 = 180 beats per minute (bpm).

For moderate-intensity physical activity, a 40-year-old should therefore aim for 64-75% of this MHR, which is 116-135 bpm.

Strength Training

Besides aerobic activity, you should also engage in activities that strengthen your muscles on 2 or more days a week. Muscle-strengthening activity (also known as strength training) should work all the major muscle groups of your body, that is, the legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms.

Muscle-strengthening activity helps to: 

  • improve blood pressure, bone mineral density,and functional health 
  • help maintain muscle mass during weight loss 
  • improve balance and reduce the risk for falls reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and prevent premature mortality

Strength training can be done either at home or in a gym. Muscle-strengthening examples include:

  • Strength training exercises that use your body weight as resistance, such as push-ups, sit-ups, abdominal crunches, pull-ups and leg squats.
  • Working with resistance bands. Resistance bands (or resistance tubing) is inexpensive, lightweight and can be bought at stores selling sports equipment.
  • Lifting weights and weight training. You can use either free weights such as dumbbells or work out on the weight machines in a gym or fitness centre

Muscle strenghtening activities should be performed progressively to the point at which it is more difficult to do another repetition. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting weights or doing sit-ups. You can: 

  • Perform the muscle-strength training activities on the same or different days that you do aerobic activity 
  • Start once a week with lighter weights performing 2-3  sets of at least 8-12 repetitions with good form
  • Over time, start increasing the weights while performing the same number of repetitions

Muscle-strengthening activities should include different exercises that work out the various large muscle groups. '

Reap the Health Benefits of Physical Activity

Now that you know the types of physical activity for health benefits, it's time to get active. Use the recommendations as a guide to help you in your journey of health and fitness.

Everyone can enjoy physical activity. However, if you have not been active and have a medical condition such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma, do consult your doctor on the type and amount of physical activity suitable for you.

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.

Read these next:

  1. Singh, M. F., Hackett, D., Schoenfeld, B., Vincent, H. K., &amp; Wescott, W. (2019, July 31). ACSM Guidelines for Strength Training.