Types of Exercise

Types of Exercise

There are three main types of exercise: aerobic exercise, flexibility exercise, and strength or resistance exercise.

There are three main types of exercise:

  • aerobic exercise

  • flexibility exercise

  • strength or resistance exercise


Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise is any type of cardiovascular conditioning that works your large muscles with rhythmic, repetitive movements. Aerobic exercise makes your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and muscles work more efficiently, increasing your stamina and endurance. Aerobic exercise can also boost your mood, help you sleep better, and reduce:

  • stress

  • the risk of breast cancer and breast cancer recurrence

  • the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis 

Examples of aerobic exercises include:

  • walking

  • running or jogging

  • bike riding

  • using an elliptical machine or a stair stepper

  • dancing

  • skiing

  • skating

  • playing tennis

  • swimming

  • rowing

  • hiking

  • playing basketball

  • playing golf


Flexibility exercise

Flexibility exercises (also called range-of-motion exercise or stretching) improve muscle elasticity and range of motion for your joints. You can expect to feel comfortable tension when you do flexibility exercises — never pain. Having good flexibility can help you do just about any movement more comfortably, from walking to sitting to bending over to pick up something. Flexibility exercises can help reduce stress and make you more relaxed. Flexibility exercises also help ease any stiffness and posture changes that sometimes happen after:

  • breast cancer surgery

  • reconstruction (especially reconstruction that uses tissue from another part of your body)

  • radiation therapy 

Examples of flexibility exercises include:

  • stretching

  • yoga

  • Tai Chi

  • Pilates


Strength or resistance exercise

Strength exercises — also called resistance exercises — make your muscles work harder by adding weight or resistance to a movement. Strength exercises also make bones stronger, improve balance and posture, and boost quality of life by making household chores and recreational activities easier and more enjoyable. Strength exercises also can help fix muscle imbalance or weakness after breast cancer surgery.

Examples of strength exercises include:

  • weight lifting

  • resistance band exercises

  • kettlebell exercises

  • body weight exercises, such as pull-ups and push-ups

Written by: Jamie DePolo, senior editor

Reviewed by 1 medical adviser
Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPH
Penn State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PA
Learn more about our advisory board

— Last updated on September 30, 2022, 10:18 PM