The #1 Exercise

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What is the greatest exercise of all? The answer may surprise you. Find out more here.

The #1 Exercise
Who's looking for that perfect exercise, the one exercise to rule them all? What is the exercise that if you can only do one for the rest of your life will make all your training goals come true? Maybe it depends on who you ask.

If you ask the AARP, you'll be stuck doing the plank forever. The plank is useful, easy on the joints, involves all major muscle groups, and strengthens the core. And it is convenient, requiring no special equipment or much space.

If you ask The New York Times, the best exercise ranges from the burpee, to brisk walking, to the squat, to high-intensity interval training (H.I.T.). The burpee is great because it builds muscle and endurance, but who wants to do burpees all day? Some of us barely enjoy doing one! Brisk walking maximizes aerobic power and thigh muscle strength, and studies have shown it can decrease lifestyle-related diseases (hypertension, depression, hyperglycemia, and obesity) by about 20 percent. The squat goes right after our body's biggest muscles in the buttocks, back, and legs. It's a very "potent" exercise says one expert. Then there's H.I.T. Interval exercises are efficient and varied. They reduce blood-sugar levels and diabetes risk. But H.I.T. builds muscular strength less effectively than the squat.

If you ask a CrossFit member at one of the 7,000 affiliated gyms across the country, the answer is likely the "snatch", one of the most difficult athletic movements out there (and a dangerous one).

If you ask the crew at Freakonomics, the answer is either the squat (again) or the one that burns the most calories (which the NYT says is the butterfly stroke). But further along in this report, and seconded by Mark Sisson at MarksDailyApple, is the real answer to the question: What is the best exercise?

The answer is straightforward: it's the exercise that you will do. The problem is not choosing an exercise; it's choosing not to exercise. At least 80 percent of Americans do not exercise enough to meet the basic recommended guidelines by American College of Sports Medicine, which suggests 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

You won't get stronger, leaner, or gain endurance if you don't exercise regularly, and you are more likely to exercise regularly if you are doing something you like to do. If you like cycling, ride a bike or take a spin class. If you like lifting weights, pump iron. If you like to swim, then swim.

In the long run you'll end up exercising more, which burns more calories, and makes you stronger. Sure, you might hit the CrossFit gym hard for a month as a trial, knocking out 3-4 routines a week. Then via fatigue, boredom, or worse, injury, you stop for months until you figure out what the next-best-thing is. But if you start today with what you love doing, you'll end up doing that all this month, and the next, and the next. So do what you love!

Feb 27, 2014
Ryan Newhouse - health writer, MyNetDiary

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