Types of activity

Mix it up! Different activities keep you fit in different ways – and stop you getting bored.

There are 4 types of activity: aerobic, balance, flexibility and strength. You want to do them all – keep reading to find out why.

Aerobic activity

If your heart beats faster and you breathe harder, it’s an aerobic activity.

Intensity level

Moderate- or vigorous-intensity activities help keep your heart and lungs healthy and give you more energy.

  • Moderate intensity means you can still hold a conversation while doing the activity.
  • Vigorous intensity means you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

Ideas for aerobic activities

Photo of a mountain biker up in the high country. Moderate intensity:

  • Brisk walking
  • Aerobics
  • Aqua aerobics
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • General gardening
  • Kapa haka
  • Household chores (eg, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming)

Vigorous intensity:

  • Walking/tramping uphill
  • Running/jogging
  • Aerobics
  • Some competitive sports (eg, touch, football, netball)
  • Squash
  • Waka ama

Check out our guides on Walking, Cycling, Going to the gym and Water activities.

Flexibility

Flexibility activities keep your muscles relaxed and joints mobile. They stop you getting injured or sore.

Ideas for flexibility activities

  • A grey-haired Māori woman plays bowls with a determined look on her face.Gardening
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Golf
  • Dancing
  • Bowls
  • Stretching exercises
  • Household chores (eg, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming)

Strength

Muscle-strengthening activities:

  • increase muscle mass
  • strengthen muscles
  • improve posture and balance.

Weight-bearing activities strengthen bone.

Everyone should aim to do some muscle-strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

Ideas for strength activities

  • Carrying heavy objects (eg, groceries)
  • Climbing stairs
  • Exercise that uses body weight for resistance (eg, push-ups, sit-ups)
  • Weight training
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Garden work
  • Running, walking

Balance

Balance activities are important to help people prevent falls (particularly older people). Falls can be caused by muscle weakness, unsteadiness, the environment or other objects. Leg muscles are integral to balance as they are the main muscles used to stabilise the body.

The more activities you do that use balance and flexibility, the more stable and flexible you become, helping you avoid injuries.

Ideas for balance activities

  • Bowls
  • Chair raises
  • Cycling at under 14 km/h
  • Golf
  • Modified tai chi
  • Otago Exercise Programme
  • Petanque (French bowls)
  • Pilates
  • Poi toa
  • Social dancing
  • Standing on 1 leg
  • Waka ama
  • Yoga

If you’re getting older

Flexibility and muscle-strengthening let you keep doing everyday tasks, and make you less susceptible to disability or injury. Balance is important for preventing falls.

Aim for 3 sessions of flexibility and balance activities, and 2 sessions of muscle-strengthening activities each week (as well as your aerobic physical activity).

Go to Physical activity for older people (aged 65 years and older) for more tips.

Mix the activities, double the benefit

If the strength, flexibility or balance activities make your heart beat harder or make you out of breath, they can also count as aerobic activities!

Be active safely

  • Wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
  • Use sunscreen and wear a hat outdoors in summer.
  • Use appropriate safety gear, eg, helmets for cycling, a lifejacket for kayaking.
  • Drink plenty of water.

For people who haven’t been active in the past, see Starting physical activity for tips.


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