Ever wonder which exercise is right for you? Or what exercise would benefit you the most? The fitness world can be difficult to navigate. Every expert claims that their way is the best. Well, I am of the mind that you should find what works for you. Certain types of exercise may offer specific benefits, but in the end it's all about what fits best with your life, your needs and your personality. So, taking into consideration things like ease of use and metabolic benefits, here's a quick list of common exercises with their pros and cons:
Pros: Pretty much everyone can practice yoga on some level. It's especially beneficial for anyone who's burned out and overstressed, because it gives you a decent workout without overtaxing your system. Yoga can also have a lot of specific applications, such as pregnancy, recovering from injury, improving flexibility, improving digestion and a lot more. It's important to learn proper technique, but even the right yoga DVD can help you with that. You don't even have to do a lot of yoga to reap its benefits. A few minutes in the morning or evening, or one good session a week can improve your balance and flexibility by leaps and bounds.
Cons: If you like to go, go, go then yoga might not mesh with your personality. Yoga takes patience and concentration. These are good things, but I know a lot of folks who just don't feel like they're "doing" enough during a yoga session. I feel that way myself sometimes, and don't end up doing yoga half as often as I'd like.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
Pros: One of the best things about HIIT is that it can fit into just about anyone's schedule. Only a few minutes of exertion a couple times a week is enough to get the benefits if you do it right. This is one crazy powerhouse of an exercise. If done progressively over time, intense interval training can offer benefits in terms of athletic ability, fat loss, muscle gains, lung capacity and more. I've been implementing the idea consistently since reading PACE by Al Sears a few weeks ago and have so far seen nothing but benefits. (Matt Stone wrote an interesting post on interval training this week. I recommend checking it out.)
Cons: It can be easily overdone. Seriously, a few minutes a few times a week is not only effective, it's also all that's recommended. It may not seem like much, but HIIT (done properly) is very intense and will tear through your energy reserves like a hot knife through butter. In fact, if you're seriously burned out and exhausted, you might want to let your health recover before jumping into HIIT. Some forms of HIIT--like sprinting--may not be wise if you're prone to injury. (But you can also do low-impact HIIT on an elliptical or stationary bike if you're worried about that.)
body weight exercises can be extremely effective. Strength training is a great tool for building and maintaining lean body mass (both muscle and bone), and will give you that tone and definition you've been looking for.
Cons: Done incorrectly, there is some risk for injury. Many people are put off by the idea of strength training because it's often associated with bulky body builders. There is also a tendency to only do isolated moves that don't allow for building functional movement and strength, but this can be overcome by simply doing more functional and compound strength exercises.
Pros: It's for everyone. Walking embraces the way body was meant to move and is one of the best ways to retain mobility over the years. Walking is also therapeutic, especially when done outdoors where you can also reap the benefits of sunlight and fresh air. The simple act of walking more is associated with a myriad of health benefits.
Cons: Not many. Most people can find a way to work walking into their lives in some way, though it does require setting aside the time to do so (making it part of your lifestyle works much better!). The main drawback would be if it turns into the next kind of exercise...
Steady State Cardio
Pros: It's politically correct and you'll impress people if you tell them you run 10 miles a day. If you really want to train for a marathon then it's probably necessary.
Cons: Too much basically sends your metabolic health through the wringer. Cardio is the ultimate stress inducer. It can be done in moderation by healthy individuals who balance cardio with other forms of exercise like strength training and HIIT. But generally it's completely overrated and basically unnecessary for health or weight loss. Do it only if you love it, and even then be careful.
What are your thoughts on exercise? Hate it or love it? What is your favorite type of exercise or are you still looking for something that works for you?