I often get asked what is the best form of exercise. Unfortunately it is not a question I can answer without asking a few questions of my own first.
Those of you that have completed our level 3 diploma in fitness instruction and personal training will be familiar with the terms specificity and individuality.
Specificity states that any change or adaptation in the body’s muscles, organs and systems will be very specific to the type of training. Therefore, before I can answer the question: what is the best form of exercise? I need to ask: what is the best form of exercise for what? If somebody wants to increase their running fitness then running is going to be pretty important for them! If someone just wants to improve their health i.e stronger joints and bones, and a stronger heart then walking is a pretty good choice.
Individuality states that for exercise to be both safe and effective the different physiological abilities, and preferences of the individual must also be considered. For example swimming can be great exercise for cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance and body composition. However, it isn’t so great if you cant actually swim! Furthermore, if you can swim but don’t enjoy swimming then it probably isn’t the best form of exercise for you either.
When deciding on what the best form of exercise is, you first need to identifying what exactly you want exercise to do for you; and when looking at the options consider whether it is something you will enjoy and likely to maintain.
These are my personal favourites.
This is probably my number one favourite activity.
The hills are great cardio, it is social, you get vitamin D from the sun, the views are great – and it’s free!
When it comes to improving your body composition then you cant beat resistance training. A carefully planned resistance programme using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and body weight exercises will burn body fat, improve posture and flexibility, condition the heart and lungs, increase muscular strength and endurance, increase bone density and joint stability, increase power and speed, the list goes on. You also feel great after a good session of lifting.
Running outdoors has a lot of the benefits of hiking with the added advantage of burning up more calories in a shorter time, and will also develop an even greater aerobic capacity. I try to get at least one run in a week, sometimes more. However, I am mindful that too much running does increase the wear and tear on the joints. If your over 35 then I would really encourage people to listen to their bodies and don’t be afraid to swap your run for a walk on those days when you feel like you need to. Keep it fun too. There are plenty of fun runs you can take part in whatever your ability.
As far as exercise goes, boxing for me is my guilty pleasure! For whatever reason putting the gloves on and whacking a bag, or sparring with a mate feels great. If getting punched in the head was good for you then I would spar two to three times a week. The cardio you get from sparring is awesome and it is great fun. Although, science and common sense indicates that getting punched in the head just once, let alone regularly is really not good for you. For this reason I probably wont spar anymore but I would hit a bag every day if I could.
Those are my favourites but I enjoy most things to be honest including Kayaking and Climbing!
I would do them all if I had the time.
So… what is the best form of exercise?
The one that will help you achieve your goals and that you get the most enjoyment from.