New York Times – What’s the Single Best Exercise?

Posted: April 21, 2011 in Training

A family member recently sent me a link to this article published in the New York Times.  It asks, “What’s the Single Best Exercise?”  In the article they ask a number of physiologists this question and each has a different answer.  Some conclude that it’s walking.  Other answers included squats, calisthenics, and high intensity interval training.

As far as I’m concerned though, I deemed this article worthless before I read beyond the title.

When we were younger and infantile (yea, I know… I’m older but no less infantile), my friends and I would pull our cars up to people walking, jogging and bicycling, roll down the window, and ask, “How do you get there?”

Anytime someone pulls their car up to you, rolls down the window and starts out asking, “how do I get….” there’s a knee jerk reaction to start thinking about where you’re at currently so you can respond helpfully. Or, depending on the neighborhood you’re from, you might be thinking, “Drive-by!!!! Get down!!”

We’d get a kick out of the confused look glaring back at us as the exerciser’s wheels spun trying to come up with an immediate answer.  Eventually they’d retort with, “Get where!?”

Now if only the physiologists interviewed in the above-referenced article were so bright.  Maybe then the New York Times would have had a meaningful article on their hands.

To ask “what’s the best exercise” without concluding the question with “for THIS particular goal and for THIS particular person” is akin to the mindless game we used to play above.

Get who where and how? Oh, and when does he need to get there?

See what I mean?

Specificity means something.  Over the weekend someone emailed me looking for help – she was trying to “transform her body” into something resembling “toned.”  Her exercise schedule started and ended with marathon training each and every day.  When I told her to do a google image search for “female marathon runners” and asked, “Is that that body you’re shooting for?” she got the point.

And that’s not a jab at female marathon runners or any women who do in fact strive to have that body type.  The point is, form follows function.  How you train your body will directly impact how it looks, neverminding genetics and nutrition for the sake of brevity.

There’s certainly an optimal way to exercise, but it’s always going to be context specific to the individual, goals and circumstances.  Don’t ever forget this.


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