Good detectives know that asking the questions who, what, where, when, and why can lead to solving a mystery. Knowing the right way to exercise can seem like a huge mystery can’t it? Everywhere you look, you see exercises and programs that claim to be the answer to the ‘problems’ of your body. How do you know what is worth the investment of your time and energy? In this three-blog series, we’ll use these five sleuth questions to know if an exercise is science-based, right for your body, and likely to lead to feeling better and staying motivated.
In this second part, we solve the mystery of choosing the right exercise for the real results you want. First, let’s clarify that this is about exercising right for improving health and well-being with lasting results, not temporary ones.
Who is the exercise for?
Even if what you’re doing is based on movement science, there are many branches within that science. Sports and military exercise training is designed for the specific purpose of competing and winning, not for improving health and function in daily life. Athletes train for temporary results. They have to ignore pain and discomfort to get to a goal. Once the season is over or their career has ended, they don’t continue. Clearly, if you are exercising for health and well-being, sports training is not the right way to exercise. Yet, how often are these approaches used in popular exercise programs? If an exercise or program was designed for athletes, keep looking for exercises specifically designed for improving function in daily life and health long-term.
What do I really want?
Get specific about what you want from exercise, because your body will get used to what you give it, specifically. General goals like weight loss are a perfect example. You might be exercising to lose weight, but are you sure that is what you really want? If you reach a goal weight but don’t feel better, would that be a success? If you reach a goal weight but don’t stay at that weight, would that be a success? For most people, achieving a number on the scale is not the real goal—ultimately what they want is to lose weight to feel better in some way and they want it to last. Don’t exercise to lose weight, exercise for the reasons why you want to lose weight.
If you are exercising to help a medical condition, just like any medication, the correct type and dosing will allow that medication to help you. Clinical exercise physiologists (CEPs) are specifically trained in not only exercise, but all of the medical conditions that can be helped by exercise. Look on websites and organizations that use CEPs to guide people with exercise for the medical condition you are wanting to help. Learn as much as you can about how to exercise for that medical condition. See the links below for some resources.
Where will I do this exercise?
The result of any exercise, no matter how great it is for you, will disappear once you stop doing that exercise. If the place you are doing this exercise is inconvenient, costly, or you do not feel good about yourself when you are there, it is not sustainable. Your brain will start making excuses why you cannot go and exercise. If you are doing an expensive program to make you exercise until you can reach a goal weight or fitness level, without a plan of what to do after you reach that goal, the results are more likely to be temporary. Consistency is the most important factor for the real results you want. Choose exercises and programs that are in a location you know you will come back to long-term.
When will I get the results I want from this exercise?
Your brain likes you to do things that make you feel better instantly. If you are doing an exercise and feel worse but tell yourself you just need to get used to it, it is not the right type or intensity of exercise for you right now. You can convince yourself that it will be worth the soreness and fatigue when you see results, but the reality is your brain believes your body more than it believes what you are telling yourself. If an exercise does not feel good instantly, it is most likely not right for your body (or any body), and your brain is most likely to tell you to skip it at some point in the future. The real result your brain wants is for you to feel better now. That’s how you will build confidence you will stay motivated. The right exercises for you are the ones that make you feel better now.
Why am I interested in this exercise?
Is it because it worked for someone else? Your body and life are unique. Just because an exercise worked for someone does not mean it is right for you. Is it because it worked for you in the past? Your body and life are in constant flux. Your body is only in the present and what worked for your past body and life is not a sure thing to work now. Is it because that person doing the exercise looks the way you want to look? Getting the long lean muscles of a dancer, or the abs like your personal trainer, has more to do with their genetic makeup than the exercises they are doing. If you find an exercise or program that sounds good to you, but it does not match your body or life right now, list what appeals to you about that program. That list will help you find a program that is right for you now. Eventually that program may be right for you, but the only way to get there is to do what is right for your body and life right now.
Bottom Line: The right exercise for the real results you want from exercise is the one that is specifically designed for those results, leaves your body feeling better now, and you want to keep doing consistently. In the last blog of this series, we’ll look at how you know if an exercise is right for your body right now.
- Check out my blog series on the Real-time results of exercise.
- Click here to find a clinical exercise physiologist.
- Exercise is Medicine websites for the US and for Australia are great resources for exercising with medical conditions.
- Exercise Right Australia has information about exercising with medical conditions.