What is the best exercise for you? Johns Hopkins cardiologist offers guidance

It's February 1, meaning it has been a month since the vast majority of Americans who made New Year's resolutions to exercise more began a new fitness regimen. For those teetering on the edge of falling off their resolutions, Johns Hopkins has developed a few pointers.

There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to exercise. Whether someone should buy into a new exercise fad or program depends on his or her interest, motivation and fitness level, according to Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine. The key to maintaining regular exercise is to identify types of workouts that are both fun and suit individual health needs.

"Different things work well for different people," said Johns Hopkins cardiologist Seth Martin, MD, according to the report. "What's great is that there are so many options today that make working out more of a fun or social activity than a daily chore."

The most popular exercises at then end of 2015 were bodyweight training — using your own body weight for resistance training — and high-intensity interval training, which involves repeating short bursts of intense exercise followed by a short period of rest, according to the American College of Sports Medicine's annual survey. Yoga, group personal training, outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing and kayaking, circuit training and boot camp were also top choices.

To determine the best exercise for you, consider the following questions, developed at Johns Hopkins.

1. What is your current level of fitness? For those who are just starting to make exercise a regular part of their daily lives, "You don't have to join a gym and do something intense," said Dr. Martin. Speed walking or other low-intensity exercises are an effective way of easing your way into more strenuous activity.

2. Do your exercises work together? "Hybrid workouts," or exercises that complement one another, are most effective for reaching overall fitness goals. For instance, people who are primarily runners can occasionally practice weight training to build up other muscle groups. Regular weight lifters can try yoga to help them stretch.

3. Is the exercise appealing to you? You will stay with an exercise longer if you actually enjoy doing it, according to the medical center. For instance, if a group fitness class plays music you love or gives you a chance to socialize with new people, or if an activity takes place outdoors, the intrinsic appeal will keep you hooked.

4. Do you feel good during the workout and after? It is important to listen to your body when exercising. Dr. Martin says to pay attention to signs such as shortness of breath or pain, and scale back when necessary.

"If you're too aggressive at first and feel very poorly after, you might be discouraged about continuing," he said, according to the report. "Exercise doesn't bring overnight changes, so you have to find something that works for you that you can sustain over the long run."

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