Choosing a workout can be intimidating. First, you have to join a gym or start a new program, commit to a routine, and always make sure you are using proper form so you don’t end up injured or in pain. With all the conflicting information out there about which workout is best, you may be wondering how to choose the best workout for your body.
Do you run on the treadmill or spend time lifting weights? Should you join a kickboxing class or try hot yoga? Which type of exercise will feel good but also help you meet your goals?
The only aspect of adopting a new workout that isn’t under any doubt is that you need to choose one. According to the CDC, adults need to do 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week, approximately 30 minutes 5 days a week. Regular exercise reduces your risk of developing certain diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and obesity. You also benefit mentally and emotionally with regulated moods and increased energy.
But the workout that is best for your body will depend on a myriad of factors. Keep reading to learn how to determine your body’s innate strengths, the difference between the various types of exercise, and a few pre-made workout plans for certain circumstances.
The Best Workout for Your Body
To choose the best workout for your body, you need to take several factors into account. Your gender, body type, and goals will all help you determine which routine you should use to get in shape.
Gender might influence what type of exercise you choose because men and women tend to have distinct goals associated with working out. Women’s exercise goals ordinarily involve either weight loss or toning muscles. They tend to choose cardio, body weight, or low-impact exercises like yoga or spin classes meant to burn calories without too much muscle gain. Men tend to work out because they enjoy it more than for a specific goal. They tend toward a combination of weight lifting and cardio to build muscle and tone.
Despite the workout stereotypes, both men and women can benefit from the same types of exercise. Women who are looking to lose weight and increase muscle tone can definitely benefit from lifting weights. Men who are looking to build muscle will profit from the increased mobility and flexibility gained during your average yoga class.
Try not to choose a workout based on what’s typical for your gender, but instead choose a workout that feels good for your body.
Body type is more than your weight and height. You might have broad shoulders or narrow hips, a short torso or long legs, natural muscle tone or stamina… Your body is unique and different types of exercise are going to feel more natural than others.
For example, someone who is naturally flexible will naturally gravitate toward workouts like dancing or yoga where their flexibility is an asset. However, too much flexibility without strength to balance it out could lead to injury from overstretching.
A runner who can do 10 miles a day without any strain will want to run marathons instead of lifting weights because that is what their body enjoys. However, repetitive exercises like running can be hard on your joints and put a strain on the same few muscles which could eventually lead to an injury from overworking.
The trick is to work to your strengths but also find balance.
Your goals provide motivation and direction when choosing a workout. Your determination to work out won’t last long without setting a goal. While small goals like losing 5 pounds or running a mile without stopping are great to start off, ideally your overarching goal would inspire you to keep going with your workouts long after you’ve lost weight or finished your mile.
Long-term workout goals could include trying out a new type of exercise every week until you find one you love, committing to at least one workout a week, or fitting into a favorite old pair of jeans. Think big and see what you can achieve!
As you choose your workout, think about your strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to incorporate complementary workouts to balance out your routine. For the natural dancer or yogi, bodyweight exercises can help build muscle to protect the body from over stretching. For the runner, yoga once a week can help stretch out those runners muscles and allow your body to move in a different way. Following your natural inclinations is okay as long as you find balance.
You should also consider your health. If you have high blood pressure, hypo- or hyperthyroid, an injury, asthma… any of these issues will influence your ability to workout. Be sure to consult with your doctor before starting a new workout routine.
Types of Exercise
After you’ve purchased your membership, set your goals, and determined your strengths and weaknesses, you still need to decide which type of exercise is best for your body. Cardio, weight training, and low-impact exercise all affect the body in different ways.
Cardio training includes exercises like running, biking, elliptical, jumping rope, swimming, and rowing. It gets your blood moving and works the major muscles in your body.
The benefits of cardio include:
Lower blood pressure
Regulated blood sugar
A stronger immune system
Moderate and vigorous aerobic activities are great to incorporate into your workout routine. Pick your favorite and try the recommended amount of 20 minutes, 3 days a week to see if cardio training works for you.
Weight training includes circuit training, push-pull training, powerlifting, and bodyweight training. Any exercise that uses weight to add resistance to build muscle and strength counts as weight training.
The benefits of weight training include:
Improved fat burning
A decreased risk of injury
Better cardiovascular health
Healthy blood sugar levels
To gain muscle, you need to add weight training two to three days a week. Start slow with low weights and high repetitions, and rotate which muscles you are using. If you need help figuring out which exercises you should do, ask if your gym offers training sessions!
Low-impact exercises like walking, yoga, tai chi, or dancing, can be used to balance out cardio and weight training routines. They are also beneficial on their own. These types of exercise use the small muscles in the body and work on balancing flexibility and strength.
Mind-body exercises like yoga and tai chi have both mental and physical benefits including:
Less stress, anxiety, and depression
Improved flexibility and balance
A higher pain tolerance
Low-impact exercise can be done every day, but you should do it at least once a week for the benefits.
All exercise boosts mood and improves brain health. The endorphins you release when moving are the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals. According to a recent study, even one hour of exercise, once a week can prevent depression. Exercise also stimulates chemical changes that affect learning and memory.
No matter what type of exercise you choose, the benefits outweigh the risks. Now, all that’s left is creating a workout plan that works for you!
If you are just starting to work out…
If you are new to exercise, you are at a disadvantage. Every type of exercise seems intimidating, not to mention difficult.
To start, commit to 30 minutes, 2 to 3 days a week. One day for cardio, one for weight training, and one for low impact exercise. You may start off walking instead of running, doing squats with bodyweight instead of a barbell, and trying a beginner’s yoga class. After a while, you can build both weight and intensity. The most important thing is to start!
If you are trying to get toned…
Weight training is the best type of exercise for building muscle. Improving muscle tone can also boost your metabolism and help you burn fat. Your top choices for getting toned are dynamic strength training exercises like squats and pushups.
Try weight lifting three days a week, one for legs and butt, one for arms and abs, and one for full body.
If you are trying to lose weight…
A combination of cardio and full-body weight training will help you lose weight. Cardio burns calories and increases endurance, while weight training builds muscle and burns fat. Two days of cardio and two days of weight training is a great balance to begin your weight loss journey.
HIIT is a good low-impact option for cardio that burns calories more efficiently. Recent studies show that 20-minutes of HIIT burns more calories than longer moderate-intensity continuous training.
If you are recovering from an injury…
Recovery is an essential part of working out. Instead of spending time on the couch while you recover, try some low-impact exercise or bodyweight home workouts. Movement is helpful for recovery and will keep you from gaining weight or losing muscle in the interim.
Choosing the best workout for your body also requires body consciousness. Start slow and build. Exercising is best when done long-term and consistently. Knowing your limits as well as your strengths and weaknesses will help you choose the type of exercise and workout plan that is most suitable for you.
Your workout should never cause you pain or result in an injury. Consult with a doctor or physical trainer if you need help modifying your exercise routine.