When it comes to exercise there are almost limitless options available. With so many choices, people are often left guessing which type of exercise is right for them. Facing this decision, there is a lot to consider, including:
1. What are your goals?
2. What are you physically able to do?
3. What form of exercise will fit in your time constraints?
4. What do you enjoy?
5. What can you afford?
What are your goals?
This question is probably one of the most neglected when starting a successful exercise regimen. To truly succeed and be consistent with your exercises, you must begin your goals in mind. Which of the following is most important to you?
2. General Muscle Strength
4. Overall muscle definition
5. Core muscle strength
6. Weight loss
Becoming clear on your goals will help point you in the direction of the exercise or exercises that will most allow you to accomplish those goals. So, you have to consider what’s possible given the following primary exercise forms:
1. Range of motion exercise – This form of exercise can include yoga, pilates, generalized muscle stretching, Tai Chi, or Qi Kung. Range of motion exercises are ideal for that person who is looking to regain flexibility and decrease stiffness. Generally, a person who suffers from stiffness or generalized soreness should include some form of range of motion exercise, though this form of motion is ideally suited for anyone. Flexibility exercises will help lengthen tight muscles, decrease stiffness, and improve overall range of motion. A weakness with this form of exercise is that it generally does very little to improve cardiovascular tone and may only minimally improve muscle strength. Weight loss is also nearly impossible with range of motion exercises alone.
2. Strengthening exercise – Building muscle strength is an extremely popular form of exercise. Generally, this includes lifting weights (free weights or machines) and any other exercise that is done against resistance. This form of movement is extremely effective for the person looking to boost muscle strength, produce definition in their muscles, and increase muscle mass. Weaknesses with this form of exercise are that it produces very little cardiovascular workout unless resistance is produced with ballistic repetition (quick reps with a higher risk of injury). Additionally, if weight loss is your goal, and it is for some, visual body changes will be a more reliable method of tracking progress than measuring weight. Generally, resistance exercise will produce a bulky muscle mass rather than the leaner look which accompanies cardiovascular exercise.
3. Endurance Exercise (Cardiovascular) – Probably the most important requirement for staying well is a healthy cardiovascular system. Endurance exercises can include walking, but biking, running, elliptical, pool laps, or even calisthenics to help elevate your heart rate while boosting your exercise endurance. This type of exercise helps to build lean muscle tone and can help to boost your metabolism, leading to increased energy. Calorie burning is also relatively high, which can lead to rapid weight loss and generally results in a slimmed physique. While cardiovascular exercise will help to boost your endurance, it will be more difficult to build muscle mass and short resistance to heavy load (found in strength training). That being said, cardiovascular exercise should be a critical component of any exercise regimen as it helps to strengthen the heart and improves circulation to the extremities. Keeping that in perspective, no one ever died of muscle weakness, but a weakened heart and circulation can kill you.
Generally a combination of all three is most ideal. Having worked with thousands of patients over the years, I can say that flexibility exercises are the most neglected of the three major forms of exercise. All, however, are important to improving and maintaining optimum health. Many newer forms of exercise are emerging that incorporate aspects of all three such as cross-training, plyometrics, cardio kick-boxing, or boot camps. There is an exercise regimen out there for you. You just have to do it.
What Are You Physically Able To Do?
When beginning a new exercise regimen, you have to consider your own physical ability and limitations. Not every exercise is meant for every person. For example, a deconditioned person, not used to regular exercise, may not want to begin with a rigorous plyometric exercise. Likewise, a person who is unable to bear weight for very long may benefit from starting with pool exercises before beginning a walking regimen.
Injuries while exercising are extremely common, usually the result of exercising beyond a person’s ability. Two popular exercises I would also generally recommend against for most individuals are squats and dead-lifts. Both have a very high risk of injury, usually because they’re done incorrectly, and have alternative exercises that will produce the same result with much lower risk of damage.
Exercising within a comfortable pain free range of motion is also key to preventing injury. While the desire is to tax the tissue so as to produce a desired effect, that has to be weighed against the risk of tissue damage if you cross that line. Exercising with proper form and being proactive about safety will give you a better workout and decrease the likelihood of having to stop your regimen due to an injury.
What Form Of Exercise Will Fit In Your Time Constraints?
We live in a day and age where time is limited and valuable. So, then, is your health. With more and more people becoming more sedentary than ever before, it becomes ever more critical to incorporate an exercise regimen into your daily routine. Simply put, you have to get moving.
The excuse I always hear is “I don’t have time to exercise.” I need you to understand that statement is a total cop-out. What it really means is “exercise is not important to me.” Incorporating exercise into your regiment is a matter of priorities. It’s always interesting how the person who “doesn’t have time to exercise” has plenty of time to watch TV, go out to dinner, sleep in on the weekends, or hang out with friends. It’s never a matter of time. It’s a matter of priorities. If it were important, you would make the time.
For those looking to be healthy, exercise becomes something that other commitments are scheduled around, not the reverse. Ultimately, you will have to find an exercise that not only works for you but you can schedule your lifestyle to accomodate.
What Form Of Exercise Do You Enjoy?
It can truly be said that the best exercise in the world is the one you will actually do and do consistently. With limitless possibilities for exercise, there is an exercise for just about anyone and there is some form of exercise that everyone will enjoy. You just have to find it.
Whether, you have a knee replacement, back pain, or are just generally ill, there is an exercise for you. So, what do you like to do? Some like to hike while others prefer lifting weights. Still others enjoy an evening run or a morning swim. Finding what you love doing and sticking with it is a critical key to be successful at any exercise regimen you choose to pursue.
What Can You Afford?
This section should almost be a non-issue, because exercising is basically free. You don’t need a fancy gym membership or home equipment to exercise. You can go walking or running outside for no charge. You can also make a ‘poor-man’s weight set’ out of some empty milk jugs. Stretching can be performed in your living room and you can do calisthenics with no additional equipment. You need to change your perspective on what it takes to get moving. Unfortunately, many people use expense as an excuse not to exercise. True, there are many amazing gyms and facilities where you can get a great workout, but don’t let the lack of a membership deter you from getting the movement you need to stay healthy.
Joining a gym does offer several benefits, however. Exercising with your peers adds motivation and being away from home may decrease the likelihood that some form of distraction will take you off task. Further, the classes offered in a gym may also guide you toward specific forms of exercise and help you exercise more safely. The equipment available may further open options for specific exercises not possible at home. A personal trainer may also add accountability and ensure that you exercise safely.
If you are fortunate enough to afford a trainer, choose one that most matches your fitness ideal and seems to represent your own goals. So, a person working toward larger bulk muscle mass and definition should not necessarily choose a fairly slim, slender trainer, and a person looking to build a more feminine physique may not want a male body builder to train them.
Ultimately, the most successful form of exercise for you is the one you will actually do and continue with. Oftentimes, people will give up on regular exercise because they feel like they don’t enjoy it. Well with so many possibilities, find what you do enjoy and stick with it. Only consistency will give you the desired results you are looking for. Becoming healthy takes time and you have to invest in yourself to get the results you expect.
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Excellent article Dr. Nance. Many people fail to exercise due to a lack of awareness of options.I believe we all can find something that we can do. Thank you for sharing.