One of the most common questions I get when consulting with at patient about getting them healthy again is “what type of exercise should I do?”  I usually tell them “the best exercise for you is the one that you will do.”  While that’s the long and short of it, that’s usually not enough of an answer for people, so let’s break this down.

Let’s talk about 3 general types of exercise.

  1. High intensity-30 min/wk,
    1. Pros-
      • raises fat burning hormones
      • builds muscle
      • sensitizes insulin, and
      • burns fat post exercise (post-exercise oxygen consumption).
    2. Cons-
      • raises stress hormones (may be too much for those already under stress or tired)
      • difficult
      • may be injury producing if not done properly (you must do this type of exercise properly!).
    3. Examples
      • sprinting (running, cycling, or swimming)
      • certain types of weightlifting
      • Crossfit
  2. Moderate intensity-1 .5-3 hrs./wk
    1. Pros
      • good for “getting in shape”
      • not too difficult
      • usually “fun”(games such as tennis, soccer, and hockey, as well as “leisure” exercise, such as the more difficult types of yoga, jogging, and weightlifting fall in to this category)
      • not as high of risk of injury
      • does not raise stress hormones too much
      • sensitizes insulin
      • builds muscle
      • Burns calories (and potentially fat).
    2. Cons
      • takes 1 ½ to 3 hours per week.
    3. Examples-
      • Tennis,
      • Soccer
      • Hockey
      • “Leisure” exercise, such as the more difficult types of yoga, jogging, and weightlifting

      3. Low intensity-5 hrs./wk

      1. Pros-
        • lowered stress hormones to burn fat
        • very gentle, very low risk of injury
        • you don’t need a partner
        • you don’t need to go to the gym
        • inexpensive
      2. Cons-
        • May be limited by weather (walking, jogging, and biking)
        • Not much, if any post exercise calorie and fat burning
        • You need to do a lot to benefit from it
      3. Examples-
        • Walking
        • Jogging
        • Biking
        • Yoga
        • Swimming

There you have it, the three general groups of exercise.  You can mix and match these, in fact, that’s probably the best way to do them.  For example, you could work out with weights for 1 hour, 3 days per week, and take a leisurely walk for ½ hour each morning to get in your high intensity, moderate intensity, and low intensity exercise.

Or you could go to a yoga class 3 days per week, for 1 hours per session, and maybe lift weights 2 days per week, for 1 hour per session.  Like I said, the most important thing is that you actually pick an exercise that you will do consistently.