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Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 | 0 comments

What Is The Best Exercise For Me?

best exerciseIt was either 1969 or 1970 when a movie came out called “If.” l don’t remember a lot about the movie other than it was a series of different yet interrelated stories based on the premise of “what if.” For example, if I had done this one thing, then this other thing would have happened. If I hadn’t done that thing, then something different would have happened. Do you get the idea? It was six degrees of Kevin Bacon before that was a thing.

And thinking about that movie got me to thinking: we all use the word “if” so many times in our life – both knowingly and unknowingly – and for vastly different reasons. For instance, if I get off of Mountain Dew, I will sleep better, feel better long term, and, according to my bride, I won’t die from drinking chemicals. I know she is right, and I want to live longer, and live more healthfully, so I dutifully drink my iced tea with lemon and work to overcome my Mountain Dew cravings.

But if we apply this to starting a fitness program, then sometimes, I think, the logic gets muddled. For example, if I read book A and follow that advice, then I will lose weight, or feel healthier, or look and/or feel stronger. Preferably I will do all of those things!

But wait a minute. If I read book B instead and follow that advice, then I will get everything I mentioned above PLUS girls/guys will find me more attractive. No, if I listen to personal trainer Joe, then he promises me all that AND my heart will be healthier. And with every new book, every new trainer, every new program, comes the renewed promise that this particular program is best for you.

But is it that simple? If there really were only one best book, one best workout, or one best diet, then wouldn’t there only be one of each? Wouldn’t we all be fit and healthy? The health and fitness industry is saturated because there is no best way, but there are countless ways to try to pitch something new as best. The truth is that there are many ways to accomplish something. I could walk, run, take a car, bus, train or plane and end up in Chicago; the end result is the same.

When it comes to fitness, the same applies. The American Heart Association says that 30 minutes of cardio everyday is best for me. But will that work for me if I hate cardio? Probably not. If a guru says squats are the best exercise I can do, will that help me if I have bad knees, poor technique, or a dislike of any type of weight? No.

I am always being asked, “Mark, what is the best exercise?”

People who know me will probably guess that I would say kettle bells. Good guess, but you would be wrong. If I recommend kettle bells to you and you hate them, how long will you use them? Probably not very long and the end result would be no benefit for you.

My real answer to the question of what is the best exercise is whatever exercise/exercises you will do consistently and stay with long term.

When it comes to exercise or training programs, a little goes along way. It took me a long time to get to the point, and is not helpful when trying to sell a workout program, because it is kind of boring, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It is not how long you exercise per day, it is not necessarily which exercise/s you choose, nor is it how much weight you lift. For lifestyle changes, long term results, and making fitness a way of life – something you not only do now but years from now – fitness can, in fact, be real simple.

Pick your exercises based on what you yourself will consistently do. If you love circuit work, then pick exercises from which you get the most bang for your buck. For example, instead of sitting on a machine and bending/straightening your leg [leg extension/leg curl], try a squat. Or, do rowing type exercises instead of arm curls. It isn’t about how much time you spend; it is the quality of the time spent. Most people fail with a workout plan over the long term because they believe mistakenly that a good workout demands an hour or two in order to be “worth doing.” But with the right exercise routine, you can accomplish a lot in a little amount of time. You have a better chance of sticking with something if the program isn’t too long. Remember, a smaller amount of work done well and consistently over a lifetime will get you more than a lot of work done poorly or inconsistently for a shorter period.

What if you aren’t a fan of any exercise? Pick an exercise or two that you hate the least. Do it for the least amount of time that you can and still get the benefits you want. If you aren’t a professional athlete or a bodybuilder, then simply train for function. If I do a few functional exercises, I will be able to play with my kids/grandkids, get out of a chair or off of a toilet easier, and/or walk my dog. Pick what is important to you and exercise appropriately to allow yourself to do that thing that you love throughout your life.

Don’t like squats? Sorry, because you can’t avoid them. Have you ever sat in a chair or used a toilet? That is a squat. Just because it isn’t done in a gym doesn’t change that fact. Don’t like deadlifts? Sorry, then you can’t pick up your child or grandchild, lift a bag of groceries, or a suitcase. No matter where or when you do it, bending over to pick up a weight from the ground is a deadlift.

Squats and deadlifts are just a couple of examples of functional exercises. If you limit your amount of sitting, move frequently throughout the day, do a few good exercises that relate to what you want to be able to do with the rest of your life, and make it a lifestyle, then you can have a better quality of life. If you need help designing a program, then get advice from a professional that you trust. But remember, there is no magical solution to better health and fitness. There are only small changes that you make everyday that can add up to a better quality of life.

I will end with this. What if John never met Paul? Then Paul would never have introduced George to John, and the three of them would never have found Ringo. I wouldn’t have a Beatle shrine in the clinic, and I probably would never have made it through high school without all the good music that gave much wisdom to my teenage mind. I know I would have more money if I hadn’t purchased a lifetime of Beatle memorabilia. That is another story though. As George said, “Life goes on within you and without you.” How will you make yours go?