What is the best form of exercise?
I’m often asked ‘What is the best form of exercise’. My answer is always the same: ‘It depends on what you like to do.’ It also depends somewhat on what you’re trying to achieve. But if you don’t like the prescription, I know it isn’t going to make a significant impact.
I come across people who say they hate exercise and don’t want to go to the gym. That’s OK. I start investigations as follows with regards to physical activity.
What do you LOVE to do? What do you wish you did more often? What did you enjoy when you were younger? What would you miss if you really couldn’t do it any more? (Such as, in the case of losing the use of your limbs.)
The last one is a little drastic but the high incidence of sedentary behaviour shows it is easy to take movement for granted. And I’m looking for passion.
Did you love to dance as a child? Are you mad about football? Do you love the beach or the feeling of cool water on your skin? Are you social and enjoy competition? Do you daydream about escaping in nature?
All of these passions translate easily into opportunities to build physical activity habits.
I believe moving more should start with something you look forward to, something that feels like an opportunity, not a chore. Starting with passion means the motivation, the adherence and progression more or less take care of themselves.
Often, once you have a reason to be more flexible, to work on balance, to gain specific strength for a sport or better cardiovascular endurance for an event, it is so much more interesting and motivating to undertake supplementary training with purpose. Not just to train to be fitter next time you're at the gym. But to perform better in what you love to do.
Before you know it, you’re off to hike up a mountain, compete in the Masters games, harvest your first crop of Summer veges, explore an exotic destination by cycling tour, run the City to Surf, dance the night away at a Salsa club or launch a local dog walking business.
And you'll be fitter and more fierce than ever. And living a life of passion.
You don't have to end up as the best or a professional at what you love to do. But it all starts with passion and ends up with a greater participation and enjoyment. At least a habit and at most a healthy addiction!
So what IS the best form of exercise? The one you’ll do – and keep doing!