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Monday, September 14, 2009

What is the best form of exercise?

People spend an amazing amount of time trying to find the best exercise. A google search on the words retrieves millions of articles on the subject, and there are nearly 20,000 books on exercise! People search through dozens of these resources looking for answers. They'll look for the best exercise for weight loss, muscle growth, whittling their waist, or whatever their current goal is at the time. Then they'll spend hours each week sweating away at whatever exercise is the recommended one of the era, even if they hate it the entire time. It's a recipe for failure. If you're going to stick with an exercise program for the long-term, it has to be fun and something you enjoy.

So when you're answering the question "what is the best form of exercise," the best answer I can give is "the one you'll do regularly."

Love running? Fantastic! Plan distance runs, high intensity interval sprints, and hill runs to hit different body parts and increase your ability. Hate it? Don't do it! There are so many wonderful alternatives, and even though most people want to do some "cardio," running is not the only way to do it!

What about weight lifting? Enjoy pumping iron? Wonderful! Find yourself an olympic barbell and lift away! Hate lifting weights? No problem! Once again, there are lots of alternatives to a traditional weight workout, and hefting dumbbells or barbells is not the only way to do resistance training.

When you've found something you really enjoy, you'll know it, because the next time you don't feel like exercising, and force yourself to do it anyway, you'll feel energized and excited about 5 minutes in, rather than feeling bored and forcing yourself through the entire workout.

So here's a list of FUN and sometime unconventional exercises that can be used for cardio and/or resistance training. If something sounds interesting, give it a try! It's certainly better than trudging through another hour on the stairmaster!

  • Kettlebells - Gaining in popularity in the past year, kettlebells are a way to get resistance training and cardio in a single workout, with just one weight! You swing, lift, and hold the kettlebell while doing moves like squats and lunges. It's challenging and many women who try it are surprised at how much they enjoy it, especially relative to traditional weight lifting. I will say that I recommend trained instruction - I train with an RKC certified instructor. Want more information on kettlebells? Check out Dragon Door and read up on Kettlebells at Charm City Kettlebells, which is a blog/site run by a fantastic RKC certified instructor, Sandy Sommer.
  • Dance - While there are lots of fun dancing options for exercise, another hot trend is ZUMBA! In these instructor-led group sessions, you dance to fantastic Latin music. The movements are structured to give participants an amazing cardio interval workout, and the classes are amazingly fun and filled with energy. Find a class here: http://www.zumba.com/us/
  • Group Weight Lifting - Great for people who like lifting weights but are intimidated by the "weight room," Group Power classes put weight-lifting into the relative safety of an instructor-led group exercise class. You get all of your resistance training for the day in a one-hour class, set to music, with an exercise routine that's been predetermined by your instructor. As you get stronger, you add more weight. Need a light day? Use less weight. It's up to you. More on group power here: http://www.quantumfitness.ca/programs/power.asp
  • Play Like a Kid - Remember hanging from the monkey bars, jumping rope, and hula hooping? Well back when you were a kid, you did them because they were fun, but did you realize they are all great exercise as well? Plus, they're inexpensive, you can do them at home, and you can even have fun getting the kids involved! Jumping/skipping rope and hula hooping are great cardio workouts. Next time you take the kids to the park try using the monkey bars and you'll add some resistance training.
  • Play Like a Grown-up - Made popular first in Southern California, Pole Dancing Exercise classes are springing up all over the country! Pole dancing can help strengthen your core, giving the benefits of resistance training, while an intense dancing session can also give a great cardio workout. For your comfort, classes should be women only, and there should be a beginners class for those who are new to the concept.

So these are just a few fun ideas that will take you out of your current bored, tedious exercises and give you something new and fun, that will hopefully keep you engaged for years to come. Which of them is the best form of exercise? Only you can answer that question!


  1. "the kind you will actually do" could not be more true. i've always been a fan of the iron, but i am in love w/ my kettlebell. when i moved home from France I had to leave my 24k on the sidewalk and I almost cried. I am also looking forward to getting back into the martial arts now that my team sports careers are over.

    in strength!

  2. Helga, you sound very motivated! Like you, I am in love with my kettlebell. But I have to recognize that's not for everyone. I've been encouraging my mom to walk and my friend to swim. I think it's important to recognize that you shouldn't waste your time slaving away at a form of exercise you hate. Life is too short!