Who enjoys going to the gym? Very few. In the West, about 12% of the population have gym memberships and only about 10% of them attend regularly. In fact, The International Health Club Association reports that “50% of all new health club members quit within the first six months of signing up and 90% of those who join health and fitness clubs will stop going regularly within the first three months.” We are now seven months into 2016… how’s your exercise routine going?
The common strategy when individuals want to get fit, is to join a gym. Many government agencies vigorously promote joining fitness clubs. This leads me to the question of: What is the best exercise? What is promoted as the best exercise?
Depending on who you ask you’ll get a number of different answers. Some will say the squat, or maybe the deadlift, perhaps sprinting up hill or, according to Rich Froning, a top CrossFit athlete, it’s the barbell thruster (squat with an overhead press). Do these fill you with motivation to get active and fit? It seems that there is a fundamental flaw in how we think when it comes to activity and fitness.
There also seems the be a major failing in how conventional fitness facilities service their members — losing 90% of your clientele within 90 days of meeting them is shocking. These statistics clearly show that there is something seriously wrong with the way in which people view getting fit and the services provided by the majority of conventional gyms; the two aspects obviously do not align.
My answer to the question is simple. The best exercise is the one you will do consistently and regularly. Here is where I wait for the eye-rolling, scoffing and smirks to stop. I know it’s cheesy, but it happens to be true.
I could tell you that this exercise, done this way, is better than that exercise or done another way. But what’s the point of discussing the finer aspects of exercises or ways of completing activities if you don’t do them? The challenge is to find something that you enjoy and compels you to participate. The simple fact is that adherence is the most important factor in the effectiveness of a fitness regime.
However, with this in mind I do believe play is the best type of exercise, as it compels people to take part. I classify “play” as an activity that you enjoy and actively want to participate in. As we get older we tend to forget the art of play. Stuart Brown, a leading psychologist who has proven that play continually shapes the human brain throughout our lifetime and calls play a “profound biological process”, suggests that this should be the main type of exercise promoted.
A world-leading health and fitness professional, Mark Sisson, states that “when we embrace play, we claim a better quality of life for ourselves. We decrease stress. We connect better with those around us. We get out more and get more out of what we do. We find more fun and maybe even meaning.”
There are many benefits to play, and this is prompting a change in how some cities are dealing with the health issues related to inactively. The New York City Council is building adult playgrounds for their citizens to play on in an effort to get people active.
Dr David Ludwig, a Harvard Medical School professor, who directs the Obesity Prevention Centre at Boston Children’s Hospital comments: “The point is to make physical activity fun, easy and accessible, so it’s the normal thing to do.” The simple fact is the best exercise is something you’ll do on a regular basis… becoming the normal thing to do.
How we approach and think about fitness as a society needs to be adjusted to focus on social aspects, to drive adherence and make people remember how fun it is to move your body. What activities do you enjoy?
Phil is founder and master trainer at Body Expert Systems. Contact him on 0934 782763, at his website bodyexpertsystems.com or through Star Fitness (starfitnesssaigon.com)