Your favourite kind of exercise is the only one that works long term

Cartoon of a woman dancing on her balcony
Dancing on the deck: a favourite form of exercise

I’ve been accumulating random headlines and quotes about exercise, ready for the next Almost Old MeetUp on Saturday. And I came across this page on website, asking one question:

What is your favourite kind of exercise?

The answers are wonderfully diverse, from kick-boxing to walking, from yoga to “hiking in the great outdoors.”

This question is hugely important, because there’s only one good kind of exercise, only one that actually works.

And that is any exercise you carry on doing year after year, because you like it.

And so, for you, the ideal exercise might not involve dumbbells or running shoes. It might involve coaching 6-year-old swimmers or pruning roses.

Sure, we have guidelines. Most are similar to the UK NHS guidelines:

do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week (More, much more here.)

That’s important, but for most humans this description not a natural starting point for a good exercise programme. The process, I venture to suggest, goes more like this:

  1. I know I have to exercise more and I actually want to.
  2. What’s available and affordable at home or in my neighbourhood?
  3. What do I actually like doing? Can I do the same or something similar?
  4. What are my friends doing?
  5. OK, I’ll do a little bit of that…

So you get started, just a little, just now and then. And you enjoy it and feel the benefits. So you do a little more, a little more often, until this new exercise becomes a habit.

One day you read the guidelines for a good exercise programme for your age. And maybe you realise that you’re almost there, almost doing the recommended level of activity. So you might do just a little bit more. More of the good stuff. Why not?

And when for some reason you cannot exercise, you feel frustrated.

Like I do right now, nursing my delicate eyeballs for a few more weeks.

What’s your favourite kind of exercise?

Please tell us (in a comment). I’m really interested and I bet I’m not the only one.

But first it’s only polite of me to tell you my own favourite kinds of exercise. There are quite a few. I love weekly dancing, Pilates class, and Pump class: moving in a group improves my brain, happiness, and fitness. Solitary favourites: a walk on Mt Victoria, a dip in the ocean, and Tai Chi.

So how about you? One’s enough!

33 thoughts on “Your favourite kind of exercise is the only one that works long term

  1. realruth says:

    Walking is definitely my favourite form of exercise – preferably with a friend, on the beach or somewhere else in nature.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Perfect. Ticks a lot of boxes— which is not why you choose to do it, though!

  2. Sadje says:

    The only exercise I do is what I can easily do; Walking

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Easy. Good. Endlessly versatile.

      1. Sadje says:

        Yes, exactly

  3. Nyla Carroll says:

    I love to run but arthritis and old age have caught up with me. Still do an old lady’s run/shuffle but love being outside and walking and biking and just moving and celebrating the fact that my body still serves me well despite years of intensive training at another stage of my life

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Hooray hooray hooray for the privilege of a surviving body 🙂 I love your approach.

  4. Cathy Cade says:

    Dancing – without a doubt. I ought to put on my music more often and just move.
    Sadly, there are no Scottish Country Dancing groups where I live or I would join. I discovered, when I lived somewhere more populous, that not only is this something to get you up on your feet and moving, it is good brain exercise for someone like me who doesn’t think very far ahead (hopeless at chess). If you don’t memorise the proper sequence of moves on the walk-through, you create havoc in the dance. My technique of trusting I’ll know what to do when I get there doesn’t hack it.
    For me, Scottish Dancing is brain exercise.
    I was still working while most of the group had retired, so when the session was ‘officially’ over I’d have to get back to the dogs and to bed for getting up in the morning, while most of the group would stay on in the rugby club bar where it was held for ‘just one more reel’.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Scottish country dancing–yes! What a shame there’s no group nearby. What can serve as a replacement? Oh you said it : put on your music and move. Unsolicited advice : set a definite time of day every day and do it for 30 seconds every day regardless of circumstances. If you’re in the car, do it in your head. Make it a habit and away you go! (Thanks, you helped me to think.)

      1. Cathy Cade says:

        Yes – I need a routine. Good idea!

  5. My favorite exercise is jogging (outdoors, definitely). I also like long walks with Dear Husband.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Sounds wonderful to me.

  6. Alan Ralph says:

    I do some stretching and joint exercises on the bed in the morning, and more exercises at lunchtime while food is cooking. As I spend a lot of time at the computer, I also get up periodically to walk around, stretch and give my eyes a break from the screen. I’m 53 now, so I’m in the use-it-so-you-don’t-lose it mindset, as much as I can. Some days are easier than others, so I try not to beat myself up if I only get a little exercise done one day. Walking around the block or further afield is something else I do, weather permitting.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Good thinking, especially at this time of life. Habits work wonders. How do you reward yourself?

  7. Nemorino says:

    Urban cycling.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m glad you live somewhere this is possible. It’s great to have cycling built into your day, for so many reasons.

      1. Nemorino says:

        The cycling infrastructure here isn’t perfect, but for me it’s fine because the route from my home to where I teach (8 km) is nearly all car-free. The route from home to the opera house (7 km) is partly car-free and the rest has clearly marked bicycle lanes which are generally respected.

  8. LA says:

    I have an exercise bike. Love it. I love an elliptical but my apartment is too small and the gym has gotten too pricey

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      My favourite words of yours : “Love it.” I am puzzled when some one calls me “good” for doing Pilates and Pump : I love it!

  9. Walking. You can do it anywhere. No equipment needed and in my neighborhood it’s a peaceful beautiful thing.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Joy of walking! Something that can seem purely functional from the outside is indeed a beautiful thing.

  10. Walking every day, but my wife says I march! Hardly surprising really after 28 years service. However, 120 paces per minute is a good workout as long as I don’t stop to admire the scenery too often!

  11. judibwriting says:

    Having been a semi-professional modern dancer early in my life (while also unknowingly having developed MS at 16), I was all about exercising daily in my dance workouts. When I was diagnosed with this chronic illness in my mid thirties, I suddenly understood past weird movement phenomena I couldn’t explain when I had asked my body to something it suddenly couldn’t do. My daily workouts continued as I declined in endurance, strength and mobility even as the pleasurable feedback from challenging my body also faded. Exercise continued as a good habit, a discipline that was ingrained. I am now in an assisted living facility and have 2 PT sessions a week in order to keep challenging my body because I no longer can on my own. I had to unlearn daily exercise forms that meant I could either use my body to go to the mailboxes with my rollator, or work out and then have to lie down for the rest of the day. “Practical PT” is what I now call just living my life. Due to knowing well my own body (and having been attended to by many healers and body workers using a variety of systems over the years) I ‘get’ how to break down each move I make to best utilize what muscle information I have left. My gratitude for exercising in my own way in the past (lots of homesteading, swimming, hiking, and parenting included) still serves me even as I lose more mobility. So far, I am not in a wheelchair. I heartily concur- find what you love moving for and engage in it as long as you can. May it serve you for the rest of your life.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Judi, this gives us a profound insight into the enduring value of activity, body awareness, moving for the joy of it. Enduring, for with you, the value is there even now in memories and habits and gratitude. I had a friend who lived with MS into her 70s, and right to the end her yoga practice was helping her in extraordinary ways. You describe analyzing every move into its component parts, and I watched her do this many times. She was able to instruct helpers in the finest detail, because she knew her body well. I thank you heartily for your message, especially your positive approach. It will inspire others too, I know.

  12. John and I walk to the creek six days a week The round trip is 2.5 miles, and it’s a wonderful time to chat. I use a resistance band twice a day. I love that because it takes only a few minutes, and I rarely persuade myself that I’m too tired. Instead of increasing the number of reps as you do for free weights, you just shorten the band to make it harder on the muscles.

    What’s with your sore eyeballs? I picked up on that sentence, since I had my second cataract surgery three days ago.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Hello Anne. What a gorgeous balance is there in your favourite daily exercise. That’s interesting, about the resistance band—shortening it instead of increasing the reps. Very appealing! Eyeballs? We’re in the same club. My second cataract operation is this Thursday 🙂

      1. I hope your second surgery will be great and that you’ll have an easy recovery.

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Thanks Anne. So far so good!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Walking for sure. Swimming when I can find a handy lake, but that is rare. I do need to keep some arm exercises going, not because I like them but because I really like being able to pick up heavy things.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      And that is your reward 🙂

  14. cedar51 says:

    Now I’m reduced to nothing – body exercise wise. Hoping it’s temporary but as it’s been nearly a year since I could regularly do anything, not holding out on that. But I spend my day in creativity – that is for the mind, and for my hands to work on doing things…

    Love your cartoon drawing this post…

  15. mflannery8 says:

    I love walking in our MetroPark, called the Emerald Necklace here in Northeast Ohio. My dog keeps the walk brisk! And then I try to get at least a couple hours per week in a Planet Fitness gym where I can try all kinds of equipment to test upper body strength. I’m paraphrasing Planets motto here but its something like “No judgement here…” However, I see all kinds of people in superb physical condition and this motivates this ild gal. Mary Ann F.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That sounds pretty well perfect. Cardio, nature, balance and strength, all checked off. And habits! I’m a fan of habits. Great to hear from you, Mary Ann!

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