Can you guess one thing experts can't agree on? Answer: The best form of exercise. Since your body benefits most from a mix of aerobics and weight training, it's nearly impossible to pick just one form of exercise on its own.
In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic, there is no single form of exercise that works best for everyone. That's because when it comes to aerobics, most exercises offer similar cardiovascular benefits--as long as you workout at the appropriate intensity for your own health and fitness level.
Since no one exercise emerges as the clear winner, you have a lot of options. When picking an activity, experts agree that it's important to choose an exercise that you enjoy and that motivates you, since you'll be more likely to stick with it over time.
The New York Times reports that most health benefits of physical activity come from the first half-hour of exercise. It's best to choose an exercise that you'll enjoy doing 30 minutes a day, five days a week, to meet the American Heart Association (AHA) fitness guidelines.
Do you have an idea of what exercise might be the best choice for you? Consider if these activities might peak your interest and spur your motivation:
Brisk Walking and Intervals
Many fitness experts cited by the New York Times believe that brisk walking is one of the best forms of all-around aerobic exercise. Walking is simple to do and available to people of many different fitness levels. In one study at Shinshu University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, researchers found that a five-month program of brisk interval walking led participants to increase their fitness level by 20 percent, on average.
Interval walking isn't difficult. To recreate the interval walking program used by the researchers in Japan, simply walk for three minutes at a faster pace, and then walk three minutes at a slower pace. Repeat this pattern 10 times.
If you haven't been active for a long time, it's wise to start slowly and stick to regular walking. After a few weeks, you may start to feel comfortable increasing your pace.
Swimming is often touted as one of the most effective forms of exercise, since certain strokes like the butterfly burn more calories and demand more oxygen than biking, running, or basketball. But while swimming can be an excellent choice for aerobic conditioning, the Cleveland Clinic suggests that would-be swimmers consider the following points before starting a program:
- Be sure that you're fit enough. Exercise beginners may have difficulty maintaining enough intensity to get the full benefits of the sport.
- Watch your intensity. Swimming is less efficient than activities like walking or biking, so you might exceed the target heart range recommended for your age and health condition. Check with your doctor, especially if you have a heart condition.
Burpees and Squats
A number of exercise physiologists consulted by the New York Times favor activities that draw on elements of calisthenics to combine muscle-building and endurance training. Two such exercises are burpees and squats.
To do a burpee, drop to the ground with your hands in front of you and kick both feet out behind you--you will be in a high push-up position. Then pull your feet back in and jump up as high as possible without straining. Repeat 10 times, and work up to 20 times.
To do a squat, place your hands on your hips and stand with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart. Your toes should be pointing straight ahead. Bend your knees, keeping your back in a neutral position, and slowly lower your upper body until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Slowly rise to standing. Repeat 10 times, and work up to 15 times.
Remember, these exercises can be intense: Take care not to overexert yourself. If you are very out-of-shape, overweight, or suffer from obesity, it is recommended that you speak with a healthcare provider before starting a vigorous exercise program.
HealthAhead Hint: Discover Your Best Exercise
Many types of exercise can be effective and motivating. While there's not one "best" choice to suit everyone's needs and tastes, there are activities that are best for you. If you pick activities that you enjoy and stick with them, you'll be well on your way to creating an ideal personal fitness program.