What Type of Exercise is Best for You?
Jan 29, 2019 01:27PM
By Kathleen Ganster
The Pilates Centre, LLC
Pilates. Swimming. Boxing. Yoga. Cardio. Spinning.
Just looking at exercise options can be an exercise in itself. With so many choices, how do you know which one is best for you?
“First and foremost, do what you enjoy. That way, you will stick with it,” said Jackie Frederick, certified fitness professional and assistant general manager, Oxford Athletic Club.
Frederick has more than 30 years of experience in the fitness industry and has seen what works—and what doesn’t. “Set realistic goals,” she added. “A big problem is that people set unrealistic goals and then become discouraged when they can’t meet them.”
As far as choosing a particular type of exercise program, Frederick suggests mixing it up. “Studies show that those with the best-conditioned bodies are those who mix it up,” she explained. “If you like working out on the treadmill, add some weight lifting and maybe try some cycling or lap swimming.”
Of course, there are many other factors that play into the “right” exercise program. Fitness levels, time availability, age and health/mobility restrictions are all important.
“For example, as we age, weight training is critical to keeping strength and good health, so you would want some sort of strength program as part of your routine,” said Frederick, adding that meeting with a certified training professional can assist in determining the right exercise program. “What works for you isn’t going to necessarily be what works for anyone else and vice-versa.”
Along with strength building, Frederick recommends cardio exercise for most people, including spinning, running and swimming.
Swimming is good for someone who may have mobility or rehabilitation concerns because the buoyancy of the water can help reduce the impact that some other forms of exercise entail. “And the warmth of the water is often helpful and can be relaxing,” she said.
Spinning helps work out larger muscle groups, and like every cardio workout, helps use more oxygen. The same is true with running.
Boxing is another form of exercise to be considered and can be particularly helpful for what might be considered a surprising population—those with Parkinson’s disease.
“Research shows that boxing can help slow the symptoms of Parkinson’s, so we have a program called ‘Rock Steady’ with about 25 people involved; the program is geared just for them,” said Frederick. She added that participants must have a doctor’s diagnosis and permission for this program.
Boxing is also beneficial for others. “It is a great upper body workout and it challenges the mind as well,” she added. “It develops reflexes along with strength and helps build confidence.”
Yoga is another form of exercise from which almost anyone can benefit, according to yoga instructor Becca Cutright.
“The benefits of yoga seem endless to me, but some of the common benefits I've experienced myself, read about, and heard from others include stress relief; release of muscle tension; relaxation; improvement in strength, flexibility, balance and breathing; and a heightened awareness of your own body, mind, emotions and spirit,” she explained.
For Cutright, yoga changed her whole life.
“I personally have found that my yoga practice became a lifestyle choice. In addition to the physical benefits, yoga provides a place to practice skills that are beneficial to how I think, feel and act off of the mat. I practice yoga and think of it as a way to live a more comfortable, struggle-free, pain-free, feel-good kind of life,” she explained.
While some may scoff that yoga “isn’t really exercise,” Cutright disagreed.
“There are some styles of yoga that focus on the physical and mainly provide a good cardio and full body workout,” she said. “However, yoga typically differs from most types of exercise by incorporating the whole person in the practice every time they get on the mat.”
She continued, “By ‘whole person,’ I mean that yoga exercises the mental body, the emotional body, the physical body, and even the spiritual body for quite a few people. A common theme across styles is to create a stronger connection to your own being.”
Breathing is also an important factor of yoga. “Deep breathing is a key component of yoga and is often cued throughout a practice; it helps create the aforementioned connection and helps one stay present in the moment,” Cutright said.
Another exercise option is Pilates. Lisa Marie Bernardo, owner of The Pilates Centre, LLC, explained a bit about its history.
“Pilates’ exercises are one aspect of Joseph Pilates' program of Contrology,” she said. “Pilates believed that by strengthening the core muscles—abdominal, back, and shoulder girdle—one would experience freedom of movement while being in control of the movement's intent.”
Pilates involves moving the spine in all directions, while also challenging the core muscles and the mind.
And like most forms of exercise, it has numerous benefits.
“These include enhancing one's focus on movement and breath and controlling movement while maintaining core stability,” said Bernardo. “Attention to the proper execution of exercises using proper body mechanics and alignment is crucial to one's successful Pilates’ practice.”
She added that Pilates’ exercises are adaptable to individuals with physical challenges.
With all forms of exercise, as someone becomes more fit, training needs will change.
“As the body conditions, you will need greater durations and higher intensity,” Frederick said. She was also quick to point out that prior to starting an exercise program, a person should have his or her physician’s approval.
Group fitness classes may also hold the key to a successful exercise practice.
“Many people will benefit from the social aspect and a class creates a ‘tribal mentality,’” Frederick said. “You may be more motivated and get more energy from the people there. Plus, you are more accountable when you know others are expecting you.”
Going with a friend can also ease some of the anxiety of trying a new class. “Bring a friend to the lesson, be open to new experiences and enjoy the freedom of movement that Pilates brings,” Bernardo said.
According to Frederick, there really isn’t anyone who can’t benefit from a regular exercise program. “From the elite athlete to someone with physical limitations—there are always things to work on,” she said.
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