What's the Perfect Exercise?

Is there such a thing as a perfect exercise? One single exercise which you could master that would provide you with all the benefits of physical activity: cardiovascular endurance, disease prevention, improved mental acuity and building or maintaining muscular integrity.

The New York Times recently jumped into the fray and asked experts to weigh in on their picks for the perfect exercise. See their responses and find out which exercise is perfect for you.

The Quest for the Perfect Exercise

The Expert: Martin Gibala, the chairman of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario
The Exercise: Burpee
The Benefits: "It builds muscles. It builds endurance."
Why it isn't Perfect: Most people would never be able to sustain an all burpee program.

The Experts: Michael Joyner, M.D., a professor of anesthesiology at the Mayo Clinic and Hiroshi Nose, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of sports medical sciences at Shinshu University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan
The Exercise: Brisk Walking, especially intervals
The Benefits: Increase in "maximal aerobic power and thigh muscle strength". Decrease in symptoms of lifestyle-related diseases (hypertension, hyperglycemia and obesity) and depression. Weight Control, especially for middle aged women.
Why it isn't Perfect: "Walking holds little appeal—or physiological benefit—for anyone who already exercises. "

The Expert: Stuart Phillips, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University and an expert on the effects of resistance training on the human body.
The Exercise: Basic Squat
The Benefits: "Activates the body's biggest muscles, those in the buttocks, back and legs." Also great for combating sarcopenia, the inevitable loss of muscle mass that accompanies aging.
Why it isn't Perfect: "There's something undignified and boring about a squats-only routine. And the science supporting weight training as an all-purpose exercise approach, while provocative, remains inconclusive."

The Expert: Martin Gibala, the chairman of the department of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario
The Exercise: High-intensity interval training, or H.I.T
The Benefits: Shorter, high intensity bursts of exertion reap the same cardio endurance benefits as longer, moderate training. H.I.T also reduces blood-sugar levels and diabetes risk. Best of all you'll get the same rewards in less time spent exercising.
Why it isn't Perfect: H.I.T builds muscular strength less effectively than resistance training like squats. To be effective, H.I.T. must hurt - meaning you'll need to push yourself to an uncomfortable level to see the results.

The Conclusion

There doesn't seem to be one perfect exercise that the experts could agree on. The only thing the experts could agree on was that consistency—in whatever kind of exercise you choose—is the key to reaping the total body benefits of physical activity.

"The majority of the mortality-related benefits" from exercising are due to the first 30 minutes of exercise. The perfect exercise is really anything you like enough to keep doing.

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Dena Stern is a certified personal trainer and the Content & Community Manager for Exercise.com. She works with a highly trained group of nutritionists, trainers, yoga and Pilates instructors and athletes to provide the best information, tools and motivation related to exercise and fitness.

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