What’s the Best Exercise to Get Fit Fast?

What’s better to maximize fitness and fat loss – is it cardio, muscle or both?

What cardio exercise brings the best results – is it cycling, rowing, running, swimming, hiking or something else?

What muscle conditioning workouts enhance overall fitness best – is it Bootcamp classes, Barre, Yoga, Pilates or traditional weight training?

Is High Intensity Training the way to go? Or is Long, Slow Distance Training better?

If someone decides to get fit and commit to an exercise program, there are a ton of options. It can be overwhelming and confusing. There’s only so much time in a week so how do you choose? 

Here’s some guidelines to help you design a good, solid weekly program that enhances your overall health and achieves optimal fitness.


The best program is the one you actually DO! So, if you hate running and will have a difficult time adhering to a running program, then choose something else as your primary activity. Design a program that incorporates fitness activities that bring you some enjoyment. Ask yourself whether you like exercising in a group or solo. Do you enjoy being outdoors or indoors? Choose an activity(s) that you will have an easier time sticking to.


Be sure that your program incorporates all primary fitness components including cardio, muscle and flexibility/mobility. Based on time constraints, combining activities will be more efficient for most people. For example, you might take a class that incorporates muscle and cardio drills so you can check off two fitness components in one workout. You might perform 3 cardio workouts and 2 muscle conditioning workouts each week and perform some stretching/mobility work after each workout to hit all 3 important fitness components. You might run or walk to your yoga studio to take a class so you get cardio and flexibility. 

Challenge all systems

Within each cardio and/or muscle conditioning workout, be sure to train all energy systems. So, for example, if you cycle, go long and slow for one ride, another go short and fast and another go for a moderate length and intensity. If you only perform high intensity training, your endurance and stamina will suffer. If you only perform slow distance training, your speed will suffer. For muscle conditioning, go heavy and less reps for one workout and lower resistance, higher reps for another workout which will condition both your muscular strength and endurance.

Mix it up

If you notice all the activities in your program are linear – like cycling, running, swimming, squats, pushups – include some activities that get you moving through different planes and angles – like participating in a sport like soccer or volleyball once per week, taking a choreographed dance class, or choosing some strength and cardio exercises that have you move laterally or through rotation. A good trainer can make sure you are incorporating all fitness components and addressing all movement patterns.

Be practical

Not everyone can afford to join a Cycle studio, a Barre studio, a Yoga studio and a Bootcamp gym to try to get it all in. Instead look for a fitness facility that will offer it all – a one-stop fitness shop – to make it easier to keep your program fresh and be able to incorporate all fitness components. Or if you love your Barre studio, be sure to incorporate some running, walking, hiking, cycling or some form of cardio into your program to compliment your Barre workouts. If you love your cycle studio, be sure to do some resistance training, core conditioning and mobility work at home to make sure you’re addressing all fitness components. Based on your budget and your interests, design a weekly schedule that incorporates variety which will be good for your body and your mind!

Don’t neglect key fitness components

Remember that every type of fitness discipline will provide specific benefits, but typically there will be other areas that are being neglected that you’ll need to address during a different type of workout. If anyone tells you that a specific activity is the only exercise you need to do, they are most likely misleading you. Be smart – this is your body and your health.

Bottom line….there is no perfect way to move your body. The human body is a complex piece of machinery and if you want it to function optimally, you’ll need to train and condition it in a variety of different ways.

Your in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at nwpersonaltraining.com.

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