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We have all heard exercise is important for good health.

But how much exercise and what kind of exercise, do we need for optimal health? As soon as you ask that question, the answer is not that clear anymore.

Here are some of the answers you might get if you ask around that question:

“Any exercise is better than none”

“At least three days a week, thirty minutes each day”

“More is not necessarily better”

“Start slow and then keep increasing the intensity and time”

“Three days of aerobics and three days strength training”

Most of these answers seem either arbitrary or quite useless, if you are in pursuit of  optimal health. Most of the people you ask either don’t know the answer or assume that you may not be able to handle the real answer or might get discouraged if you knew the real answer.

Just like the way I posed on question on nutrition, let me restate the question, “If there were no excuses, what should be the optimal amount and type of exercises for optimal health?”

No excuses: I am too fat, I am too slow, I don’t have enough time, I am not in shape, my — hurts, I don’t feel well enough, I am too young, I am too old… None of such excuses allowed.

There are so many options available for exercising:

  1. Aerobic Exercises – Walking, Jogging, Running, Cycling, Swimming, Hiking, Rowing, Stair Stepping, jumping rope, and so on.
  2. Cardio Exercises – Generally same as aerobic, done a little more intensely.
  3. Resistance or Strength Training – Working with free weights, body-weight exercises, working with nautilus machines, working with Kettlebells
  4. Cross-fit – Aerobic, cardio, strength training are all combined in the same sessions
  5. Balancing Exercises – Using BOSU balance trainer, medicine ball or simply using body alone
  6. Yoga/Pilates – there are many different types of yoga ranging from simple and easy postures to intense yoga practices like Vinyasa, Iyengar or Bikram yoga
  7. Stretching Exercises – to build and retain flexibility
  8. Musco-skeletal alignment Exercises – For example Egoscue eCises
  9. Breathing Exercise or Pranayama – help cleanse the body and build aerobic capacity.
  10. Endurance Training – Running longer distances for building endurance
  11. Interval Training – alternating between high and low intensity to increase capacity
  12. Rebounding – jumping on trampoline
  13. Exercise to improve reaction times – those involve catching
  14. Myofascial exercises – Rolling using foam rollers for myofascial alignment

Lots of choices. So, how do we sort through all this stuff?

It is a good question, Is n’ it?

In the process of writing this blog, I thought, as usual, I would find some additional information and also sort out information I have in my head to-date and share that knowledge.

Well, I got stuck right here while writing this blog.

So I took a break and finished reading the book, I recently bought: “Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? Fitness Myths, Training Truths and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise”, by Alex Hutchison, Ph.D.

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The book offers answers to numerous frequently asked questions regarding exercise citing the latest in scientific research in the field of Sports Medicine. And, of course, that includes, the very poignant question on the book cover.

If you want to get to the punchline from the book, here is an excerpt from the last chapter where Hutchison offers the following as a summary:

“..Knowing is half the battle. The other half is the real challenge – putting the knowledge into practice. To that end, I hope you’ll take the following three messages from this book:

  1. Do Something rather than nothing: …if there’s one overriding theme in the research presented here, it’s that any exercise, in almost any amount, brings significant and immediate health benefits. Start doing it, and worry about getting it right later.
  2. Figure out your goals and monitor your progress: …Think carefully about what you hope to achieve in six months, a year, five years – bearing in mind the aphorism that most people overestimate what they can achieve in the short term and underestimate what they can achieve over the long term. Choose a program that will move you toward those goals and monitor your progress.. If you don’t start to see progress after 6 to 12 months, consider whether your program is appropriate for you goals.
  3. Try something new. Whenever researchers line up two or more exercise techniques against each other, the conclusion is almost never “A is better than B” or “A and B are the same”. Instead, it’s, “A has these strengths and weaknesses, while B has these strengths and weaknesses” Moreover, all programs suffer from diminishing returns after a few years… Trying something new every now and then will force your body to adapt in new ways, keep you mentally fresh.”

Well, this is not quite the answer I was searching for. But it seems to be the reality out there.

It is also a good working strategy. And, is pretty close to the one I have personally been following.

What do you think?

What are your thoughts on this topic?

I would love to hear from you.