What’s the best exercise?

I’m often asked the question; what’s the best exercise? Simple question on the surface. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t straightforward and actually requires counter questions before it can even be discussed. Questions like;

What do you want to achieve?

How often do you want to train?

Do you have any physical/ mental/ social/ environmental/ financial restrictions?

Do you prefer training alone or with other people?

The list can go on and on…

I’m not going to go through all of these and get bogged down with hypothetical questions or assumptions. For me the answer really comes down to the balance of importance placed on two sides; Efficiency and Enjoyment. The 2 E’s if you will.

  • Efficiency – Can you do activity well, within necessary time scale and without waste to achieve desired results
  • Enjoyment – Do you need to enjoy exercising to do it

In my humble opinion, the importance of either is based upon the individual. Obviously, the ideal scenario would be an activity that gets the best results in the fastest time that is also extremely enjoyable. I would suggest that if an individual has already found that scenario they wouldn’t feel the need to ask for my help. For the majority of my clients, and people in general, I think the opposite is usually more prevalent – not getting results with exercise and not enjoying what they’re doing.

There does, of course, sit a middle ground here whereby you do an activity because you love it and the results are either not important or just a nice bonus. Or alternatively, you do something because you know if works, even though you hate it (a larger portion of my personal training clients if they were being honest).

Essentially, I believe it comes down to what is more important to you, or at least trying to find the right balance.

Let’s look at a few popular exercise activity examples and the estimated hourly calorie burn rate:

  • Jogging – 654 (10 minute mile pace)
  • Walking – 198
  • Circuit training – 756
  • Zumba – 546
  • Cycling – 612 (average speed of 13 miles per hour)
  • Housework – 246
  • Golf – 324
  • Swimming – 288 (front crawl 20 yards per minute) 522 (front crawl 45 yards per minute)

*Hourly estimates based on values calculated for calories burnt per minute for a 150 pound (68kg) person


As you can see, the most efficient calorie burning activity for an hour of exercise is likely to be circuit training. Great for me – I love circuit training. Not so much for those who can’t stand it. Zumba (or other dance focused classes) comes in burning around 200 less calories an hour. Hate circuits, but love dancing? Maybe Zumba is actually the better choice for you. Why? Because if you enjoy it, you are more likely to do it. Circuit training can boast all it wants about being the most efficient calorie burning activity on the list, but it doesn’t burn anything if you don’t do it!

As a personal trainer, the most important aspect of fitness for me is to enjoy whatever you are doing. If you hate running, but love zumba, for the sake of 100 calories it’s a no brainer?! Or better yet, if you love housework, I have a hoover (that I’ve been told works) and you’re more than welcome to push it around my house for an hour.

So, what’s the best exercise to lose weight? The exercise (or combination of exercises) that you enjoy enough to do regularly in order to achieve the results you desire.

How do you find that exercise? Now that sounds like a question your LiveandWorkout Personal Trainer can help you explore…

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