Which Exercise is the BEST?

If you are a fan of group exercise classes, you know they come and go. Back in the 80's, we were all doing Jane Fonda-style calisthenics which involved deep stretches with lots of bouncing. Great if you're looking to overstretch, but no longer recommended for those who'd like stable joints. Then Jazzercise caught on, but now that's something your grandmother might do with her bridge club. Step aerobics was hot for a while. And Zumba made a huge splash in the pond, spawning many spin-offs. But what is the BEST exercise for creating all-around fitness, including strength, flexibility, cardio, agility, balance, and speed?

As you might guess, it is difficult to find everything in one package. Yoga is great for flexibility and balance, and you can certainly build some strength as well, but that's about it. Pilates combines flexibility and strengthening, but again is lacking in the aerobics department. However, if you look at aerobics classes like Zumba and Step, there is very little stretching and not much strengthening going on. If weights are used, they are mostly for toning rather than building real strength.

For this exact reason, I like to mix things up. I combine Pilates matwork, Zumba-style aerobic dance, and yoga into one class for an hour and fifteen minutes every Friday morning. This is my most popular class, probably because the workout touches on every aspect of fitness. By adding the use of stability balls, stretchy bands, medicine balls, body bars, and dumbbells, I can up the challenge. The music makes it fun, too. (This class is called Fit Jam: Fire and Spice. It is offered through Howard County Rec and Parks at 9:30am at the Gary Arthur Community Center in Glenwood. The next session starts in early January.)

Bootcamp is another great option for those looking to gain strength, agility, and cardio benefits. A good bootcamp class will challenge all the major muscle groups throughout the body. It's unlikely your instructor will provide much in the way of stretching (this tends to be overlooked in favor of strengthening) but you will probably work on all the other aspects of your fitness profile. In my bootcamp, however, I make a point of stretching out every muscle group before class ends. (Leave me a message in the comments below if you are interested in trying a bootcamp class in Howard County.)

If you're looking for a VERY challenging workout that covers most of the fitness bases, you might want to check out a Crossfit Box. Crossfit combines HEAVY weightlifting with all sorts of gymnastics-based exercises like handstands, walking on your hands, swinging from a bar, etc. Workouts also include aerobic challenges like sprinting, rowing, burpees, kettlebell swings, and/or swimming. I'm not sure if any stretching is involved, as I have never visited a box. But I believe the instructors receive excellent training and can make the workouts accessible for men and women of all ages and fitness levels.

I realize you have more to do than just workout, so it's important to make your exercise time count. Look for classes that address all your fitness goals in a single package. Shop around! Let me know what you find!



  1. I just blogged about my latest workout regimen, which is along the same "keep things varied" theme - I took all of my workout programs I've collected over the years, wrote all the workouts on pieces of paper, folded them, and put them in a vase. Now I grab a random piece of paper every day and am "surprised" by my workout! Keeps me on my toes (sometimes literally)!

  2. Great idea! This is something I could use in my bootcamp classes! Thanks for sharing.


Post a Comment

Please share your helpful questions and comments here! Thanks for being part of this balanced community!