What type of exercise is best? It’s a great question because we’re all busy people and we want a strong and firm return on our sweaty investment.
It’s also a simple question without a simple answer. Our bodies are complicated and our goals and lifestyles vary considerably. As such, the best type of exercise for you will not necessarily be the best type of exercise for someone else.
So how can you determine a good type of exercise for you?
You’ve Got General Goals
The benefits of just being active are colossal so if your goals are general, you are best doing something that is enjoyable, practical and sustainable because you’ll do that activity consistently.
Beyond this, I would encourage you to include exercises that cover all of the following general components of fitness:
- Strength: Exercises that make your muscles fatigue. Amongst other things, strength training is great for bone health, posture, metabolic rate and opening jars of pickle.
- Aerobic endurance: Exercises that raise the heart and breathing rate for a sustained period. Amongst other things, this style of training is great for cardiovascular health and running after busses when you’re late for work.
- Flexibility/mobility: Exercises that work joints through a full range of motion. Amongst other things, this style of training is great for posture, injury prevention and slinking out of the kitchen after you’ve embarrassed your husband by opening the jar of pickles.
- Balance/co-ordination: Exercises that require you to think about where your body is in space. Amongst other things, this style of training is great for sports, games, fall prevention, and the floss dance at work parties. (GIF or link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LN7yJkYq_aw)
You’ve Got Specific Goals
If you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, your training needs to be specific to your goals. The following examples highlight this point and also show how varied optimum training can be:
- Susan is 55 and wants to run a half marathon but she has never run before. Susan’s training needs to involve running but running can be unforgiving on the body. Susan can start by doing traditional circuit training, hill walking or step intervals to build aerobic fitness and physical durability without the repetitive impact of running. She can then phase into greater volumes of running.
- Carol is 40 and a busy professional who is struggling with work-related stress and anxiety. Her exercise is important for her mental wellbeing. Forms of exercise that promote mindfulness are great; like yoga or hill walking. She might also enjoy boxing as a stress release.
If you want to become stronger, Cross Fit could be a good option but if you don’t enjoy lifting heavy weights around gregarious people, why join a Cross Fit gym? Likewise, if yoga is specific to your goals but the only yoga studio is 45 minutes away and you’re a busy person, you’re probably better off going to the Pilates studio next to work. A final example, you might want to improve your cardiovascular health but you’ve had two knee operations. Running is great for cardiovascular fitness but not great for weak knees; cycling or swimming are better options.
If you don’t enjoy it, it’s impractical or it just doesn’t suit your body, you won’t train consistently and you won’t reap the benefits. Be pragmatic and realistic. Set yourself up to succeed and not to fail.
The Take Home Message
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to fitness. We’re all physically and mentally different, and our goals and lifestyles vary. I recommend that you do forms of exercise that you enjoy and that suit you. If you have a goal, make your training goal-specific. Try different things and listen to your body – you’ll soon find out what works for you.
If your goals are general, you are more than welcome to come along to some of our boot camp training sessions. We consciously cover all aspects of fitness in a fun environment with very experienced trainers. If you are unsure about what would be the best type of training for you and you want support and guidance with your training, we also offer top quality personal training and running coaching.
Have fun being active!
About the author: Tom Berry is the owner of To Be Personal Training; Christchurch’s leading provider of mobile and outdoor personal training, running coaching and boot camps. He has been helping Cantabrians get fitter and healthier since 2011.