What is the most effective exercise? That’s a little like asking what’s the best toothbrush: it’s the one you use regularly.
A coach recently told me that consistency beats intensity almost every time. Screwing up all your willpower and going hard for a couple of days or weeks or months is not going to carry you as far as doing something at a more moderate level that you can and are willing to sustain long term.
Some people think that means you should love love love the exercise you do, so that you’ll want to do more of it. And sure, exercise can take so many forms that most people can find SOMETHING they like: indoors or outdoors, fast or slow, competitive or not. But when you are out of condition, it can all feel too hard and it’s difficult to imagine ever WANTING to make exercise a regular part of your life.
So here are the insights I’ve gained over the past year and a half that are helping me to make exercise a regular part of my life.
- Go easy, but go regular and you’ll be able to do more very soon. Make it a habit.
- You don’t have to love it the first time, but you shouldn’t hate it.
- Be willing to give new things a fair try. A fair try means you give yourself time to get past the initial adjustment period – be that three times or a month.
- Be honest about why you dislike something before you give it up. Boring dance class? Drop it. Challenging dance class? Take it down a notch, but don’t give up.
- There is some debate in fitness circles about activity vs. intentional exercise. What counts as exercise depends on what you’re already doing and your current fitness level. If taking out the trash, or going to the mailbox, or walking the dog, are not things you regularly do and they’re a challenge, then yes, that counts. If you’re trying to estimate a calorie burn for that in order to adjust how much you eat for weight loss, don’t do it; it’s likely too small a number to be accurate and you’ll frustrate your efforts. But for exercise? For general health purposes? Yes, in my opinion, it counts. Increasing general activity is a great place to start because it’s easy to work into your life and it doesn’t have to be too physically difficult. Plus, you’ll be more productive.
- Even if exercise never becomes something you are passionate about, you should still do it because it’s part of general care and maintenance of the only body you’ve got. And it beats the alternative, which is disability and early, uncomfortable death. (Yes, yes, I’m aware death comes to us all.) After all, I’m not particularly passionate about my toothbrush, but I still make regular use of it because I’d like to keep my teeth as long as possible.