Short answer: there is NO BEST EXERCISE – for the love of God keep reading.
I don’t like to label specific exercises as good or bad, because in my opinion any kind of movement beyond a Cheezel-fuelled-binge-sesh is always good thing (for clarity, I’m also not labelling Cheezel fuelled activities as bad. Au contraire).
While there is no best exercise for so many reasons, what I can offer you is even better: the formula to figure out the best exercise for you.
Generally the most effective and time efficient exercises are the ones that move multiple joints. Exercises that move more than one joint at the same time means that you are working more muscles at the same time (think the multi-tasking of the muscle world). For example a squat is a perfect example of a multi joint exercise because it moves your ankle, knee and hip joints. Other examples include push-ups, lunges, burpees. In a similar vain you can get even more bang for your buck by combining 2 or more exercises to incorporate even more joints. For example, take the aforementioned squat and add a bicep curl as you stand up.
Conclusion: the best exercise is the one that moves more than one joint.
On the flip side if you would rather scoop your eyeballs out with a teaspoon than do a squat with a bicep curl, the best exercise is therefore the exercise you would actually do.The question to ask yourself in that case is: what do I ‘like’ to do? Do you like the outdoors? Do you enjoy being in the water? Do you prefer lifting weights? Do you love exercising in groups? Try and tick as many of these boxes as you can when it comes to choosing your regular exercise routine.
Conclusion: the best exercise is the one you will actually do.
And do it consistently. Regardless of what you do for exercise, to feel and see the benefits it must be applied consistently over a period of time/forever. It’s far more beneficial to exercise for 30 minutes most days of the week than to get to the end of the week and cram a 2 hour session (and to be fair you probably won’t be able to walk for another week anyway). Take stock of your current routine/lifestyle and see where you can find consistent pockets of time to exercise. Could you wake up 45 minutes earlier and do an online workout? Do you get a lunch break you could squeeze in a group fitness class? Could you replace regular coffee catch-ups with friends with a walking catch-up? Don’t panic, you can still take your coffee.
Conclusion: the best exercise is the one you can do on most days of the week.
The above formula is useful if you don’t have a specific fitness goal in mind – that is you just feel BLERGH and want to exercise to feel ‘better’ physically and mentally. If you really want to pinpoint that elusive best exercise, having a specific goal you are aiming for will help narrow down your options. For example your goal will not only determine the best type of exercise, but also the prescription of repetition ranges, tempos (the speed at which you execute the exercise), rest periods and frequency of training…nothing that your friendly fitness professional can’t help you with *wink*
Ok, but if I’m really being pressed for the best exercise? Apply the following filter:
Was this exercise around before the internet? Then do that.