If I had to say which question I am most often asked about fitness, it would have to be “Which exercise is best?” My answer is always the same…”MIX IT ALL UP.” As long as you get ample cardiovascular training, ample strength training and ample flexibility and balance training, and you are enjoying it, then you have found the best exercise for you.
When I design my group exercise classes, I try really hard to combine those important 3 aspects into one hour, so people can get in and out of the gym with a complete workout. This is not always possible in specialty classes like Pilates or yoga, which often requires supplementing with some cardio. Think of you week of exercise like you do your eating and always make sure you are getting enough of each of the healthy ingredients! The perfect balance would be something like 30-45 minutes of cardio, most days of the week, 2-3 days of strength training (which shouldn’t take long) focusing most importantly on the big muscles of the legs, back, chest and shoulders and some stretching, preferably after each workout. Personally, I like to do one or two sessions a week of Pilates and/or yoga to compliment and balance the higher intensity workouts.
I believe that we set ourselves up for injury and burnout when we get hooked into one form of exercise and think it’s better than all the others. How often I see marathon runners who look hunched and aged because as fit as their hearts and lungs are, as great as their endurance is, they lack any musculature to support their spine and bones! Pilates addicts look long and lean and have fantastic cores, but must supplement with cardiovascular exercise to increase cardiovascular endurance. Hard core bodybuilders often shy away from any cardio as they feel it will eat up some of their muscle mass. They might look great on the outside, but I am sure they don’t look as great on the inside!
To someone just starting out on their fitness journey, this “recipe” for fitness might seem overwhelming. In reality, all you need to do is keep mixing things up! A brisk 30 minute walk, followed by some push-ups and pull-ups and a few minutes of mindful stretching could be accomplished in well under an hour. A weight lifting session, done in circuits where you do a set of something and then move on to something else and keep moving till all your sets are complete, followed by stretching would be a very well rounded workout.
Balance work can be incorporated into any routine without adding additional time. Do some bicep curls with one foot lifted, add tree pose to your stretching and cool down, or do some lunging keeping your heels off the floor! Be creative, but not TOO creative. From my experience, too much creativity leads to injury!
Which exercise is best? A little of this and a little of that, which is exactly what I am off to do! I hope that you will find some time today, to do the same and whatever it is, make sure it’s fun for you. There are way too many choices for it to NOT be fun!