The Best Form of Exercise
I used to exercise obsessively. Every morning at 5 am I’d be at the gym ready for my group exercise class – some days spin, some days step, some days boot camp. I embraced the comradery and the competitiveness of having others around me and the encouragement and energy of the instructor. I did this for years, first at one gym, then at another. I thought this was the right way to exercise – with high intensity and really loud music. And then one day, I stopped. Just like that. I quit going to the group classes and gave up my expensive gym membership. I still don’t know what triggered the change, but what I do know is that it was okay, and it was what my body needed.
I started to walk more, and sometimes went for a slow, short jog. I did some yoga and took my bike out for long rides. I joined a small local gym. I also started working with a personal trainer. I loved the one-on-one attention and the focus on my goals and my body. My workouts were challenging but I felt toned and strong. I could see the impact of my efforts on my day-to-day activities. I could carry heavy bags of groceries easily and run up and down the stairs without getting out of breath. My posture improved and I moved more gracefully and confidently. My daughter joined me for a few weeks of semi-private sessions in preparation for a big hiking vacation. We hiked up and down mountains with ease! I loved the personal training so much that I enrolled in a certification program and am now a certified personal trainer myself!
So, what’s the moral of my story? I think it’s that our belief that the only good way to exercise is for at least one hour at a gym until you are exhausted and covered with sweat is just not true. So, if you are one of those people who doesn’t love this form of exercise, it’s okay! Ultimately, what is important is that we do some sort of comfortable movement every day, whether it’s walking, strength training, yoga, dancing, biking, gardening, rowing, etc. Let go of the idea of the “no pain, no gain” cultural concept of having a regimented exercise routine and move toward a mindset of regular physical activity and enjoyable movement. Find the form of physical activity that keeps you strong, balanced, and flexible to be able to do the activities you need to do every day and the ones you love doing.
The list of the benefits of exercise is long! It helps you control your weight, reduces your risk of heart disease, helps your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels, improves your mental health and mood, helps keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp, strengthens your bones and muscles, reduces your risk of some cancers, reduces your risk of falls, improves your sleep, and more. AND it can slow down aging! We can’t do anything about our chronological age, but with healthy lifestyle habits, especially exercise, we can influence our biological age. Research shows that exercise can slow down the effects of aging.
So, what’s the best form of exercise? It’s the kind you enjoy doing and the kind you will do every day. Stay young and have fun, my friends!