Neolife Sports and Exercise Department.
If you had to do just one form of exercise, which one would be the most appropriate? What type of exercise is the best of all?
Depending on which professional you ask, you will get a range of different answers. A CrossFit trainer would recommend the snatch dead lift or power lift, a physiotherapist would recommend Pilates or postural restoration exercises, a professional in sports science and physical education would advise strength training and a doctor would simply advise you to walk more…All of which is correct.
A good exercise program can vary greatly and will depend on the different characteristics of each individual, such as age, gender and level of fitness. Not everyone is fit enough to run or perform every type of exercise from the get go. We therefore need a phase of physical conditioning.
It is important to make it absolutely clear that no exercise is not recommended, but rather some people are not quite ready for a certain exercise in particular: is a backflip highly recommended? Well, for an Olympic gymnast it would be part and parcel of their day to day routine, but for the vast majority of people it is a highly unrecommended exercise.
What has been scientifically proven is that you should do some form of physical activity that is within your range of possibilities: however little it may be, it is always better than nothing.
Running, swimming, doing sport or even just going out for a walk is better than staying at home sat in your chair watching TV. What is important is to stay active and keep in mind that with regards to exercise, the more we do, the better it will be for our health and our general well-being.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is probably the most influential scientific institution in the field of sports science and it regularly indicates its position stance on the minimum amount and type of exercise recommended in order to improve and maintain a healthy physical condition. These recommendations are accepted worldwide by the majority of national and world health organizations (WHO).
The latest recommendations, issued in 2011, include the following: perform a cardiovascular exercise at moderate intensity (a brisk walk, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing…) for at least 30 minutes five days a week or for 20 minutes three days a week at a higher intensity. It is also recommended to do 2 or 3 weekly sessions of muscle toning, exercises for balance and coordination and another 2 sessions for flexibility. As mentioned above, the ACSM makes it clear in their position stance that the exercise program ought to be adapted to each individual in particular, and even if the bare minimum is difficult to reach, any increase in physical activity will have beneficial effects on one’s health.
In this sense, the best and ideal exercise to improve your health, is any exercise that can be carried out on a regular basis and can be made into a habit. The greatest workout plan, no matter how good it may be for various aspects of you health, if it is never put into practice, is no help at all. This is why we must be realistic when deciding what kind of physical activity we want to do and try to adapt it to our lifestyle, our abilities and our day-to-day routines.
It is essential that whatever activity we do we find fun and enjoyable. We all know the benefits of regularly carrying out physical exercise, but if we can’t keep it up, there is no way it can help improve our health in the long run. This is why the activity we choose should be motivating, challenging or simply enjoyable enough to keep us entertained while we do some exercise. For this reason, there are group classes for certain activities which, although not ideal for everyone, are hugely successful with gym-goers (such as Zumba classes, spinning etc.).
Finally, the importance of a qualified professional in sports science and physical activity ought to be highlighted, as these are the professionals who not only dedicate themselves to carrying out workout plans and implementing their knowledge so that we can achieve our objectives and reap the benefits in terms of our health, but who are also in charge of adapting workouts to the schedules of our daily lives as well as motivating us to consistently carry out our daily dose of physical activity.
Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jul; 43(7): 1334-59. PMID: 21694556