The Best Type of Exercise
As a personal trainer I’m often asked what type of exercise is the best one to do for weight loss. The answer I give is often surprising, as well as somewhat frustrating, to those asking me this question.
So, what is the best type of exercise?
The type of exercise you will stick with.
For a world that wants to be told exactly what to do in black or white, right or wrong, yes or no… this answer doesn’t directly say if you do X then you’ll get Y which will lead to Z. But, the reality is… the key to using exercise as a weight loss tool is consistency. That’s it. Consistently being active will give you results. So, that’s why I answer in this way.
We all have different likes and dislikes. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. We all have different lifestyles. We all have different a biology. We all have different desires as to how we want to look, perform, and feel on a daily basis. So, there is no one right way to achieve physical fitness.
So, when choosing an activity to improve your physical fitness, choose one that gives you some enjoyment. All exercise/activity is hard when we begin attempting to get into shape, so don’t think that it should feel easy… no, to change something about yourself, you will need to challenge yourself. But, even when something is hard, a person can find enjoyment in it. So, choose an activity that you feel that enjoyment either before, during, or after… hopefully all three!
Don’t choose something that you dread, or doesn’t work well for your body. Hate running? Does it make your knees hurt? Does it make you want to throw a tantrum like a tired 2 year old when it’s time to run? Then don’t do it! Go for a walk instead. It’s less stressful on your joints, and it has been shown to have many benefits beyond just Calories burned such as reducing stress hormones (a key component in weight loss and a healthy life), improving insulin sensitivity (another component to weight loss and health, and many more things. Also, choose for performance. You want to run a half marathon? Then you better be hitting the pavement. You want to be strong? Then iron is your new best friend. Is improving flexibility big on your agenda? Then a yoga class may just be the answer.
Now, I will say that whatever you choose, have realistic expectations about how it will affect your physique. The reality is, certain types of exercises will produce certain results. For instance, you want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Then long distance running and yoga ain’t gonna cut it. Want to look like a fitness model? Then strength training is your friend. Do you want to look like a yogi? Then Crossfit probably isn’t the answer.
Now, there are factors such as genetics that do play into how a person’s physique will look… for instance, I am short and naturally muscular… even when I was “skinny” I wasn’t really “skinny”. I gain muscle really easily, but on the flip side I gain fat really easily too, and I have a hard time losing it. For years I tried to fight against my genetics and produce a different body, but I finally learned to embrace it. I hit the weight room, and I focused on bringing up areas of my body that weren’t quite as naturally muscular to balance out what the good Lord gave me. 😉 I have also learned that endurance training has a negative effect on my weight. Running long distance causes me to pack on body fat really quickly – not the result that I want – but, I do set performance goals from time to time that require this type of training, so I do it knowing it won’t make me look the way I want too look. So, for the most part I avoid long bouts of cardio, unless I’m training for a specific event, and I put more time and attention on strength training, as it produces the best results for my physique. This may or may not be true for you… so, experiment with different types of activities to see how it affects you.
Ideally, we would use a combination of multiple types of exercise to achieve a healthy body, as there are physiological benefits to all of them. Strength training increases muscle mass, and has been shown to be anti-aging… Running/cardio is great for your cardiovascular health… Yoga is great for your joints/stress levels. All of these things lead to an overall healthy body and a healthy, happy life. I have begun to incorporate different activities myself. For many years I simply did strength training. I built muscle, but I wasn’t very functionally fit. But, by incorporating walking and yoga into the mix of my strength training over the years, I am now strong and toned, and I keep my muscles loose, and I have a little bit of cardiovascular health so I don’t get winded going up a flight of stairs or during everyday activities. If you’re looking for a general guideline I think most people should perform strength training at least 2x per week, activity such as walking everyday, and at least a few minutes stretching everyday as well. Put more emphasis on the activity that brings you joy, but sprinkle in the others here and there for your health.
Whenever you are choosing an activity for your daily exercise lose the mentality that it has to be extreme or high intensity or long duration… when we have this mindset it creates an all or nothing attitude. We think “Well, I don’t have an hour to go to the gym today, so I guess I won’t workout today” You may not have an hour to go hit the treadmill or the weight room, but you may have a few 15 minute breaks throughout the day to walk, do body weight exercises such as squats and push ups, or to stretch… take advantage of those brief breaks. They add up over time, and you will gain the benefits of health.
Another helpful thing you can do is create accountability. Sign up for a Zumba class. Get a walking buddy. Hire a personal trainer. 😉 Just don’t let others give you an excuse to not do it… if they flake out, that’s on them – it doesn’t influence whether you do it or not… you do it anyways. Accountability is there to help you, not to take away your power. It’s still 100% your choice what you do with your body.
One last thing…. exercise is great for your health, your happiness, your energy levels, and your performance… but, you can’t out exercise a bad diet. If fat loss is your goal, you HAVE to have your diet in order. If you are going to choose one – diet or exercise – I say choose diet… that will give you the most bang for your buck. But, if you aren’t ready to tackle diet yet, get to moving… you will get benefits from being more active, even if the scale doesn’t move. I find that when I’m more active I kinda naturally eat healthier anyways… you may have this same phenomenon. Every little step in the right direction will get you to your goal… eventually. How fast you get there is up to you. Take that one step. Repeat. Eventually you’ll be living a healthy, happy, and thriving life. It starts with one step.
To your health, my friends.