Swimming/Yoga/Kettlebell swinging is the best exercise

There was a guy I knew who was a swimmer. He was a bit of a pain, actually. He told me more times than I care to remember that 'swimming is the best exercise."

I didn't agree but I couldn't be bothered arguing with him, so I'd just smile enigmatically whenever he repeated his mantra.

Just as there are advocates for swimming, there are those who claim that yoga is the best exercise, or kettlebells, or Pilates, and so on.

They're all wrong of course.

The best exercise depends on what you're aiming to achieve.

If you want to be a champion swimmer, then certainly swimming is the best exercise for you.

If you want to be a champion gymnast, or simply become proficient at a few moves (e.g., the front lever) it'd be advisable not to spend much time in the pool.

I can hear my irritating friend saying: "Ah, but I didn't mean that. I meant that if you want a means of keeping generally fit for the average man or woman, swimming is the best thing you can do."

My reply is: swimming is certainly a legitimate form of exercise for this purpose, but it isn't the only one, and there's no reason to believe it's any better than any of the other things you could be doing. The same goes for Pilates, Yoga, etc.

They're all potentially good for you - but none of them is a universal panacea..

If you want to get "generally fit" (whatever that means) then variety is surely the spice of life.

But not random variety, as it were; the variety has to be systematic.

As you age you lose various physical qualities (unless you make efforts to retain them).

These are:

Muscle size and strength;

Heart function;

Lung function;

Flexibility, as in the ability to touch your toes etc;

Good posture;

Motor skills - i.e., the ability to move in a fluid and co-ordinated way.

(Note: the above list may not be comprehensive)

Which of these is most important?

It depends what situation you're in.

If you need to climb up a rope to safety, it may be strength; if you need to run from danger or to rescue someone, it may be heart and lung function; if you need to get in or out of a confined space, it may be flexibility. And so on.

These examples are a little extreme. Here are a few everyday ones to illustrate the point:

When you get older it may become essential to address flexibility issues, otherwise you could end up being unable to tie your shoelaces.

Strength may be an issue if you have to carry a heavy object.

Heart and lungs if you have a staircase to ascend.

So what is the best exercise for ''general fitness'' purposes?

There isn't one. You have to come up with a routine, (as opposed to a single exercise), and it must cover lots of bases.

It doesn't have to be the same for everyone. Some people are naturally strong but lack flexibility and vice versa, so the best routine for you might not be best for somebody else.

But let's face it, if you're just doing something to keep active, anything at all, even if it's just an hour of gardening most days of the week, you're in a good place.

You don't have to go for the full enchilada.

Even I don't do that.


How do you put on your socks and shoes?

Keep moving

Just walk


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