Of all the different types of exercise out there—from running to weight-lifting to hula-hooping—which type is best?!
Short answer: all of them.
Long answer: all of them, but it depends on your goals.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to improve overall health and longevity. Everyone should include some form of exercise into their daily routine. Where we run into problems is people can get intimidated by the vast depth of information that you can find when trying to determine what kind of exercise is best for you. This causes some people to avoid exercise altogether because of the fear of being embarrassed with what they are doing. So, let’s not overcomplicate things. Of course, you can dive deep into research and metrics, but for most people, that is not worth the time or energy. One easy rule of thumb to follow is to move every day. It doesn’t matter how you move or what you are doing, just move. This can include weightlifting, walking, running, or doing something you love like playing with your kids or chasing your dog around the park. It does not have to be complicated or over-analyzed. Even the simplest forms of movement, like walking, can greatly improve your health.
Now, we can get specific about what exercise is best, but only if you have a certain goal that you are striving for. If you want to run a full or half marathon, then some endurance training would be the best exercise for your specific goal. If you want to be able to carry all of the groceries inside in one trip or build muscle, strength training is the better option.
When thinking about what type of exercise we want to partake in, we need to consider a couple of things. First of all, we need to consider where we are starting. This simply means, how is our current physical fitness level? That can range from not so great, to being in the best shape of your life. Either way, awesome! Next, we need to think about what our goals are, or where we want to be. Do you want to go from the couch to running or walking a 5k? Have you run a half marathon and want to try a full marathon? Are you having trouble picking up heavier boxes at work and want to be able to do that with ease? Or have you squatted 400 pounds and want to get to 500 pounds? All this means is that everyone has a different starting point and a different end goal. It is way too easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others, even though everyone starts at a different point and has a different goal.
More recently, I have been diving into the concept of longevity and what it means for my overall health and wellness. A cool exercise to try is to think about what you want to be doing in the last decade of your life. We will call this the “marginal decade”. Now we back-cast and think about what we can be doing now in terms of exercise and nutrition to get to that decade and do what we want to be able to do. This exercise can seem a little morbid, but it puts into perspective how important exercise is now and small goals that you can strive for and put in place for decades to come.
Circling back, I want to emphasize the importance of movement in general. I went down a rabbit hole about goals and where you want to be, and you may not know that at this moment. But any exercise is better than no exercise. Whether you know what you are doing or not, whether you have never been to the gym or have been going for 25 years. Any exercise, of any kind, is awesome exercise, and your body will thank you for it. As stated previously, a general rule of thumb is to move everyday. It’s as easy as that.
Now, if you despise exercise with every part of your being, there are some ways to help that. First of all, try exercising outside. Nobody likes to walk on a treadmill while looking at the imperfections of the paint on the wall. Get outside, get some sun, and take a walk. Another way to have more enjoyment while exercising is to do it with other people. Group workouts or partner workouts are awesome options and have been shown to boost motivation through competition. Even better if you can work out in a group and outside! If you try a workout and you didn’t enjoy it, try something different and find something that you enjoy.
In summary, the best type of exercise is one that you enjoy, that best aligns with your specific goals, and that you’ll do consistently. There are endless benefits to exercise of any kind. Just please get out and move your body. And hey, you may even start to enjoy it!