The One Exercise No One Should Skip

If there were one exercise program, one diet, one piece of exercise equipment, one protein shake that was perfect for everyone, there would be a billionaire sitting out there on that secret with a monopoly on the fitness and weight loss industry. The truth is that there isn’t one exercise, one diet, one meal plan that fits all people of all ages in all stages of life.

The one exercise no one should ever skip is exercising our ability to research, compare and decipher what’s best for our body, our lifestyle and our goals.

It’s true that everybody needs exercise. We all need exercise that is cardiovascular in nature to strengthen our heart, our lungs and help us to maintain a healthy weight. We all need exercise that challenges our muscles. Strong muscles help us to do life efficiently, safely, and freely. While these are true, they are very general. These recommendations leave room for personalization.

Not everybody needs CrossFit. While CrossFitters are hardcore and enthusiastic about their training, I wouldn’t recommend it to my 50 year old neighbor with knee pain and a weak lower back. Yoginis are loyal and dedicated to their Yoga practice, but I don’t think it’s a be all end all exercise form perfect for all health goals. The type of exercises chosen should be based on these three things:

  1. What are your health goals? Always keep in mind your end goal. Is it to train for a specific sport? Are you training for a sporting event? Is it to rehabilitate an injury or recover from a surgery? Are you looking to reduce stress? For example, here’s why this thought is important; if you’re looking to lose weight, you’ll need to burn more calories than you consume. If you want to lose weight efficiently, you’ll want to find exercises that burn larger amounts of calories. In other words, for cardiovascular exercises, choosing to run over walking would burn more calories. Or if you choose to walk, you’ll walk more often to use more calories to add to the calorie deficit needed to lose weight. Running or walking wouldn’t be the first choices if you were training for a cycling event or if you were recovering from a knee surgery.
  2. What kind of exercise will give you benefits without hurting your body? It’s important to weigh out the cost versus the benefits when choosing an exercise program. It may be really fun to do kickboxing, but it may be the one thing that will put you out of commission for a long while if your body is not prepared for an exercise like that. Based on your health goals, you can pinpoint kinds of exercises you’ll need. Then, based on your body at it’s current fitness level or condition, you can decipher which of those exercises are the best for you.
  3. What is your exercise personality? This may seem to be insignificant, but it is far from it. This factor can be the single leading reason why you can’t stick with a particular program. If I were to run on a treadmill only, I would be bored out of my mind. Do you like music? Do you like routine? Do you like company? Do you like short and intense workouts or do you like longer, less intense work? The answers to these questions could mean the difference between taking a dance fitness class or going for a hike. Knowing your exercise personality will help you to determine the best program for you and will help you stay committed and motivated for the long haul because you may actually enjoy the exercise you’re doing. The treadmill’s not for everyone and neither is that trampoline group exercise class.

Illustration by Robert Thomas

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