Physical activity is essential for our health, but it can also lead to injury. Many people want to engage in activities that maximize health benefits while keeping the wear and tear on their body to a minimum.
It can be hard to decide what the best physical activity for your body is, with all the conflicting information ou there. Does running wear out our knees, or were we born to do it? Will lifting weights make our bones stronger, or restrict our mobility?
There is no such thing as ‘the best physical activity’
Currently, there is no consensus on what the best physical activity is. All we have are general guidelines on how much activity we should be doing. Here are a few other factors to consider when choosing the best physical activities for you.
Do you enjoy it?
Unsurprisingly, it’s best to engage in activities you actually like doing. While taking pleasure in your activity has no direct effect on the heart, lungs, or muscles, it can influence your behavior. When you enjoy an activity, you’re more likely to do it consistently, at a higher intensity, and for a longer duration. These are the factors that determine the health benefits you receive.
Intensity and duration
Intensity is a measure of how hard you’re exercising, which reflects the amount of work your body is doing. Aim to perform your physical activity at a moderate to vigorous intensity. You can think of a moderate-intensity level as when you’re breathing hard enough that you can’t speak normally. Try to perform at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
You may want to get your 150 minutes with multiple activities. One of the reasons we can’t identify ‘the best physical activity’ for our body is that engaging in just one activity often leads to injuries.
Exclusively performing one physical activity usually leads to the formation of imbalances, if left unchecked. The body is very good at adapting to activities that we do regularly. To improve efficiency, it will use the muscles that are already strong, while neglecting the weaker groups. Biomechanical issues arise over time unless we make an effort to restore balance.
Let’s take running as an example. While running is great for cardiovascular fitness, it does little to build strength or mobility in the major muscle groups. Many runners who don’t engage in supplementary stretching and strengthening activities suffer from overuse injuries.
Engage in multiple activities
One way you can balance things out is to do a range of different activities, also known as cross-training*. If you love yoga, try lifting weights twice a week to protect yourself from overstretching. If you’re a CrossFit junkie, try swimming a few laps in the pool to unload your joints. Mixing things up can help to challenge the body in the areas it needs it the most.
*Not to be confused with the cross trainer, a machine which is not necessarily the best way to prevent imbalances
Identify and target vulnerable areas
Of course, not everyone is prepared to pick up a new sport or hobby in order to prevent injuries. You might not have time, or not know which one to do. There is a simpler way to supplement your regular activity in order to stay injury-free.
The Phyx app for iOS lets you prevent and treat injuries across the body. The app will teach you how to target your weaknesses and perform your favorite activities in the best way for your biomechanics.
If you subscribe to Phyx Premium, you’ll get access to the full progression of exercises for each body part, and all the information you need to use them. You can even track changes in your pain, strength, and mobility as you improve.
Try a two-week free trial of Phyx Premium by signing up for a monthly subscription. You won’t’ be charged until the trial ends, and can cancel at any time.
The is no single activity that is perfect for our bodies. Meeting the physical activity guidelines with activities that we enjoy while actively reducing imbalances is the best way to maximize health and minimize injury risk.
What do you think is the best physical activity?
Everyone has a favorite; what’s yours? Let us know in the comments. Make sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter and follow us on social media while you’re there.