The Job Analogy
If two different companies offered you the same job for the same salary but one of them required you to work two to three times as many hours per week under more dangerous conditions, would you consider both job offers equal? Of course not. Nor should you consider two exercise programs equally effective if one of them requires a greater time investment and carries a higher risk of injury even if both result in the same degree of physical improvement over time. Your long term return on investment and risk versus reward ought to be considered.
What if you really like the job and want to spend more hours working? Some people claim to like working out, but if they answer honestly when questioned you’ll find they do for psychological and social rather than physiological reasons, and what they really like isn’t exercise but social interaction with people who share their interest in exercise and other similar values. The next time you’re at the gym watch and you’ll see people spending far more time talking to or looking at other people (or trying to draw attention to themselves and checking to see if other people are looking at them) than actually exercising. There is nothing wrong with this if people understand and are honest about their reasons and there are psychological benefits from exercise itself, but most people would be better off exercising in the most effective manner for physical improvement and finding other activities which are much better suited to their social and psychological wants and needs.
What Is The Best Way To Exercise?
Most discussions on the relative effectiveness of different exercise methods are short sighted, focusing only on the degree of change in some factor over shorter time frames and ignore the issues of efficiency and safety, which are equally important. In the long run any reasonably effective program can maximize your genetic potential for all of the general factors of functional ability, but if a method requires a larger time investment to do so or causes more wear and tear on the body or carries a greater risk of injury it is not equal.
The means goal of exercise is to stimulate the body to produce improvements in the general factors of functional ability, but the real goals of exercise, the end goals, are the various improvements in your life that result from accomplishing the means goal. Every hour you spend working out that you don’t need to and every bit of unnecessary wear you put on your body that can contribute to a loss of functional ability in the long run detracts from the greater enjoyment of life that is the real goal of exercise.
It’s not just about building muscle, losing fat, and getting fit. It’s also about doing so more efficiently and more safely so that you are able to spend more of your life enjoying the benefits of exercise than pursuing them, or worse, suffering the harm of poor exercise choices. This is why I do and teach high intensity training, and why I am so critical of the time wasting and harmful bullshit promoted by much of the fitness industry. In the long run, when you take everything into account – results, efficiency, and safety – HIT really is the best way to exercise.