But to some people, the dreaded “e word” sounds anything but appealing. They’d rather diet their way to weight loss and stay on the couch. I cannot over-emphasize how dangerous this is. To stop moving is to stop living, and even the most brilliant brains need the circulation, neuron-stimulating brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and oxygen infusion they get from vigorous cardiovascular exercise (like running and biking), resistance training (like weightlifting, push-ups, and squats), and flexibility training (as with yoga and any stretching exercises). Exercise does so many good things for you that it’s worth finding your personal exercise preference and getting that heart rate up on most days.
However, if you aren’t the “just-do-it” type, you may not have found an exercise routine you can stick to. You know what they say—the best exercise is the kind you will actually do. In my experience, the exercise people are most likely to do is the kind that best fits with their personalities and lifestyles. So what kind of exercise might suit you best? Take this quiz to see how your personality and preferences may predispose you to preferring certain types of exercise over others. Find out your exercise personality in just six questions—then get moving! For each question, write down which answer sounds the most like you, even if it’s not exact.
1. When you were a child, family, friends, or teachers said you were:
A. A dreamer, a loner, an introvert, creative, shy.
B. A tomboy, a nature girl, or you heard a lot of “Don’t bring that animal inside the house!”
C. A social butterfly, popular, talkative, an extrovert, a performer, a loyal friend.
D. “Bossy” (don’t you hate that word?), a show-off, an A+ student, a natural-born leader, an over-achiever.
2. When you have a day off or extra free time, or on a weekend, what is closest to your favorite activity?
A. Stay home, hunker down, and spend some time with yourself, reading, watching movies, maybe taking a nap, or working on your favorite quiet hobby, like writing poetry or painting or trying a new recipe. You like to take time to recharge.
B. Go out into the great outdoors, in any way you can. You might take a hike, take the family to some natural area, walk through the park, putter in the garden, or just sit in the sun and relax.
C. You want to see your friends! You would love to get together for coffee or lunch, or have a happy hour date. You might even go dancing after, or have some focused friend-time to talk over all your issues together and solve the world’s problems.
D. You have goals and you want to work towards them with focus, so you use your free time to make progress. You might train for the 5K you want to run, or clean out your whole closet, or work through your carefully organized to-do list. You always have a list.
3. What would your dream job be if you didn’t have to worry about making money? Choose what sounds most like you.
A. You would love to be a writer, a painter, or maybe a scientist. You can imagine having a quiet little garret or studio to work in. Or, do they still have lighthouse keepers?
B. You could see being a park ranger or a wildlife biologist. Maybe a marine biologist working on a boat. A conservationist might be interesting, or one of those veterinarians who makes house calls to farms. Nature would be your office.
C. You would make a great party planner, wedding planner, cruise ship director, tour guide, or any kind of social director. You might also make a good celebrity, going on all the talk shows to promote your latest film or collaborative business venture.
D. You would start your own company from nothing and build it up to be wildly successful and highly profitable. Or you would go back to school and earn another degree because if you’re going to learn something, you might as well go all the way with it.
4. Something absolutely has to get done. How do you approach it?
A. You dread it when something absolutely has to get done by a deadline. It stresses you out. You can force yourself to do it, but you don’t like it. You’d rather do things in a more roundabout way. All things in good time.
B. You’ll go outside and take a walk first to clear your mind and figure out the best way to approach the deadline. Or you’ll take your laptop outside somewhere peaceful so you can concentrate.
C. You’ll rally the family or your friends for help. The more the merrier, and the quicker things will get done. More people means more energy.
D. Obviously, you will make a list and then jump right in, in an organized manner, to tick off each step. You love meeting a deadline. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.
5. You have to work on a project with a group, whether at your job or at home with your family. What is your approach?
A. Group projects are kind of a nightmare for you, but you can handle them if everybody gets to do a separate part of the project. You’re happy to do your thing on your own, then come back to the team when all the parts are done.
B. You hope it’s an outdoor project, but if not, maybe you can all step outside together to get some fresh air and sunshine, for a new perspective and a more creative approach. You always hope the conference room at least has some big windows.
C. Group projects are the best. You like to start with a good brainstorming session, so everybody can bounce ideas off each other. It’s the best way to get something accomplished creatively. The whole is always better than the sum of its parts.
D. You like to be the team leader, directing the conversation and assigning tasks to everyone in an orderly manner. You’re usually the one who can be counted upon to achieve the goal.
6. You learn best if you:
A. Can read about it or watch a video without distractions. You can hyper focus if nobody is around to interrupt your flow.
B. Can take in the information, then mull it over while you go for a walk. Something about being outside helps you process information better, and being around trees and green spaces makes you more creative.
C. Can talk through the information with people. You always understand things better if you can verbalize the concepts to someone. You love study groups.
D. Take detailed notes then organize the information into an outline that you can study and memorize. You will ace the test! (You always hope there will be a test.)
Now count up your answers. If you clearly have more of one letter, see below for your exercise style. If you have a lot of two letters, you will probably enjoy both styles. If you are about even with all the answers, then anything goes and you would probably have the most fun switching it up often and trying all the exercises below.
If you chose mostly A’s; Whether you have a stressful life and you know you need to manage your stress levels or you are just a more quiet, low-key, or introverted person, you prefer a workout you can do on your own, preferably with noise-cancelling headphones playing your favorite music so nobody talks to you, or doing something calming and spiritual. There are two things for you to consider: 1) During times of high stress, you are likely someone who should back off very vigorous exercise. Default to taking peaceful walks, doing yoga, and taking days off when you’re tired for a little self-care. 2) You probably prefer exercise you can do by yourself. You will do best to exercise at home in a relaxed setting. A yoga mat, a few sizes of dumbbells, and some workout bands should cover all your bases. You might actually enjoy taking a class in yoga, tai chi, or stress management, because these classes are often very inward-focused and teach you practices you can use on your own. Just be sure to get some cardio, some weight training, and some stretching in each week, at a level that makes you feel less stressed, not more. You can follow on-line or app-based videos you like, but take a stand when it comes to enforcing your exercise time. Think of it as a time just for you, that nobody else can infringe upon. You are doing it for your health and you may find that the solitary time you take to move your body replenishes you in ways you never expected. For balance, you might also really enjoy meditation.
If you chose mostly B’s: You would do best to focus your exercise on the outdoors, nature, fresh air, and sunshine. Stuffy gyms and inside workouts probably aren’t your thing, so head outside and take a brisk walk. Try working up to alternating running and jogging, until you can jog or run. Hiking is great exercise, especially if you have elevation changes, and trail running is also a great option for you, if and when you are fit enough. Invest in a good pair of trail runners or hiking books to keep your ankles safe from uneven surfaces. There are some apps that will show you the trails, nature areas, and parks near you. Make it an adventure—check out new trails and make new goals for yourself. Even if you can’t get to a natural area every day, you will probably prefer walking/running around your neighborhood, going on a bike ride, or hitting some tennis balls back and forth to exercising inside or at a gym, but going on some exercise expedition could be a great weekend priority for you. If you take your dog along, your dog could probably get fitter, too (pets are experiencing an obesity epidemic just like humans). Or, your partner or friend might like to get fit with you. If you bring a backpack, you could pack a snack and a thermos of your favorite post-workout beverage to enjoy afterwards, so you can stay outside as long as possible.
If you chose mostly C’s: You are probably the extroverted type who gets energized being around people, so you are someone who would probably enjoy joining a gym, where you could take classes, work with a trainer, or just be around people, even if you don’t necessarily talk to them. You might also really like exercise classes, like a yoga class or a Zumba class or one of those classes that combines aerobics and weight training, like Body Pump. Maybe a walking or running club is more your speed, or playing some kind of team sports. There are likely a wide range of possibilities in your community, whether through private clubs or local recreation centers and community sports leagues. If not, you could start your own. Get a group of friends together for walks in different areas, followed by a smoothie party or mocktails (so much healthier than your standard happy hour). Group classes can also be great bonding experiences and ways to meet new people. The important thing for you to remember is that people recharge you, so don’t suffer through solitary exercise. You’ll have a lot more fun and be a lot more likely to stick with it, especially if your friends are expecting you. It’s built-in accountability.
If you chose mostly D’s: You always have a plan, and your goal-oriented nature likely makes you a high achiever. You love that feeling of checking off the boxes on your to-do list, or hitting some new target you’ve been aiming for. You are probably quite organized and might even be one of those few people who actually likes logging your food, counting your calories or carb or fat grams, and planning all your meals ahead of time. Fitness apps that help you keep track of your stats, like steps and miles and calories burned, that offer challenges, are made for people like you. You would probably love to train for something. Depending on your fitness level, you could shoot for running your first mile, or participating in a 5K, or even a half marathon, or just getting in your 10,000 daily steps, come hell or high water. You might also like to seek out the many goal-oriented fitness challenges available online, often for free. I’ve seen 30-day squat challenges, 30-day plank challenges, “become a runner in 30 days” challenges, and so forth. Some are in online magazines or on websites, and some are audio challenges you can listen to while walking, running, or exercising. Some people feel pressure from this kind of structure, but not you! You live for it, so go for it. You might also really like working with a personal trainer who can work with you to set goals customized for your needs and fitness level. Think about what fitness goals you really want to achieve. Map them out. Make those lists! Put your benchmarks on your calendar. Whether they are organized by someone else or just by you, that organized sense of working towards an ultimate goal will fuel your motivation much more than any random exercise efforts ever could.
Whatever you do, and however you do it, do it regularly. That’s my parting advice. Exercise is the most beneficial when you do it consistently, and when you do, you will see dramatic improvements in many health measures over time. It might be the most important investment you ever make in your own health.