So nobody tells me that the New York Times Magazine featured an article called "What's the Best Exercise" last Sunday? I have to find that out on some street corner somewhere? You guys are falling down on the job.
Anyhoo, it was a good piece, as these things go. It included interviews of exercise physiologists and researchers, which turns me on. The article concludes that the "best exercise" isn't a one-size-fits-all proposition. One researcher notes that brisk walking is an exercise nearly everyone can do and can aid with everything from weight control to lessening the risk of dying prematurely. Okay, but dudes, it has to actually be brisk. I mean arms swinging, sweat dripping, breath coming fairly fast.
The article notes that if you are already active, brisk walking isn't going to get you anywhere (well, it will actually get you to the store and stuff, but I digress). For the higher-fit, the prescription is squats. Done with the weight of your own body and utilizing the biggest muscle groups, squats should undeniably be part of anyone's strength-training routine. But I wouldn't build my whole workout around them.
The article's final nomination for Best Exercise is high-intensity interval training. There has been a certain amount of research lately that touts the benefits of his kind of training--you can gain cardio strength using bursts of high-intensity exercise interspersed with low-intensity exercise in a fraction of the time it would take you to make those gains using moderate-intensity steady-state exercise. Unclear, however, is whether you can expect the same kind of weight loss benefits, since you aren't actually expending as many calories doing it as you would for longer moderate-intensity exercise. And besides, intervals broke my heart rate.
I have my own nomination for Best Exercise. It's the plank. A mainstay of the Pilates and Yoga crowd, the plank is handily modifiable so that everyone, from the deconditioned to the overconditioned, can participate. It requires no equipment and reaps benefits even though it is done for only 30 seconds to a minute at a time. And it tightens the muscles of your torso like nobody's business.
Perhaps next week's workouts for everyone will be a hardcore mixture of brisk walking, sprinting, squats, and the plank. Sounds like a boot camp workout to me!