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Finding fitness that fits you

Exercise is the key to better health and wellness, so finding the right one can keep you motivated and active.

Samantha Millican
June 13, 2024
Plus size women jogging and exercising at the park and walking outdoor in the city streets in Chicago, United States

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week to maintain optimal health. It is important to find exercise options that fit into your busy schedule and deliver results you want. If consistency is a challenge, having a variety of exercise choices can help you stay active, no matter your energy level, available timor weather conditions. 

“Incorporating regular exercise into your routine is a powerful way to enhance your quality of life and longevity. Consistent physical activity reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers,” says Lauren Buck, MD, FACS, a bariatric surgeon. “It also enhances mood, sleep quality, and cognitive function, empowering you to make healthier lifestyle choices.” 

Here are the benefits of different types of exercise to help you discover what works for you and enjoy your journey to better health: 

Moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) 

MICT, like jogging or cycling, looks like a standard cardio workout. It involves maintaining a steady level of exertion throughout the workout. These sessions typically last 20-60 minutes to obtain full benefits. MICT is excellent for cardiovascular health, increasing blood flow and boosting endurance. However, it may not be as effective for weight loss or improving strength, speed or muscle building. There is a risk of overuse injuries, such as tendonitis or worsening arthritis symptoms due to the repetitive nature and extended duration of the activity. 

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) 

HIIT or “hit training” consists of short, intense sets with brief breaks, often structured like circuit training. For example, a typical HIIT session might involve multiple sets of one-minute rotations of five different exercises with 10-second rests in between intervals. These sessions can be done with or without weight or resistance depending on your experience level. Most people will see maximal benefits with 30-40 minute workout sessions. HIIT is fantastic for heart and lung health, improving circulation and endurance. It also boosts metabolism, continuing to burn calories after workouts, allowing you to feel more energized even after a strenuous workout. HIIT is more effective than MICT at reducing body weight and improving strength and muscle mass, burning 40% more fat than MICT in a shorter period of time. However, the increased intensity carries a slightly higher risk of injury, so it’s crucial to focus on proper form and control, especially as you fatigue. You can increase the intensity or resistance as you get stronger. 

Sprint interval training (SIT)

SIT or “sprint training” is a newer interval exercise regimen involving very short bursts of highly intense exercise followed by longer breaks. For example, you might sprint for 10-30 seconds, then rest for two minutes, repeating over a 10-minute session. You can get effective results in as little as 10 minutes. SIT offers significant health benefits, such as improved heart and lung health and mood enhancement. Research shows SIT is 90% more effective at reducing body fat when compared to traditional cardio. Sprint training has many benefits for older adults, such as hormone regulation, improved balance, coordination and reaction time, reducing the risk of falls. SIT is accessible to beginners since it can be modified to match your skills and can involve less intense activities like sit-to-stands, water aerobics or marching in place. As with other exercises, there is a risk of injury, so continue to focus on form, control and personal intensity levels. 


Walking regularly is an excellent way to increase your daily activity and can be very helpful for anyone with a sedentary job. While it may not significantly improve strength or weight loss, it is a simple, low-risk activity that enhances sleep, brain function and mental health, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Research shows that walking regularly can reduce joint pain and reduce risk of injury and falls. Aim for walking at least 10,000 steps a day. 

Low-intensity stretching or control-focused exercise 

Exercises like yoga, tai chi and Pilates may not build bulky muscle or lead to significant weight loss but offer unique benefits that contribute to overall well-being. These routines vary in intensity and can improve flexibility, coordination, core strength, balance and mental health. Known as “meditation in motion,” these exercises focus on the mind-body connection to help reduce stress, improve sleep and release chemicals that boost motivation and combat depression. 

Consult your doctor if you have concerns about exercise safety. Anyone can try a new workout routine, but if you are new to exercise or have pain or health restrictions, consider consulting a physical therapist. These exercise specialists can help you find appropriate exercise, maintain good forand reduce the risk of injury while improving your health. Remember, the best exercise routine is one that fits your lifestyle and keeps you motivated and active. 

Sticking to an exercise routine 

If getting started on an exercise plan and finding ways to fit exercise into your day is difficult, here are some tips to keep going: 

  • Pick exercises you enjoy: Choose activities you look forward to and make it more fun by adding music, working out with a friend or playing sports.
  • Diversify your workouts: Select two or three different options that you can choose from depending on your energy, time and weather conditions. This gives you choices to ensure you stay consistent even when you don’t feel your best or the weather doesn’t cooperate.
  • Fit exercise into your routine: Find a time that works for you. Not everyone needs to work out at 5 am. Get creative during lunch breaks or while catching up on your favorite show.
  • Make it a group activity: Incorporate exercise into your family and friend events by walking together or enjoying a game of kickball. This improves your health and the health of those you care about. 
  • Celebrate success: Set personal goals to keep you focused. As you meet your goals, find healthy ways to celebrate, like spending time with friends or buying something you’ll enjoy. 

Remember, every day is a chance to start again and missing a day does not mean you have failed. Focus on staying consistent rather than on being perfect. If you have health or safety concerns, consult a professional.

June 13, 2024

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