You've heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: Movement is medicine. It’s a major way to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic illnesses. At Found, our providers and health coaches routinely encourage members to find ways to move their bodies. But is all movement equal? For example, is running, swimming, or resistance training more beneficial in terms of health, weight loss, and body composition? After all, your time is precious—and probably feels scarce—and at the end of the day, you want to know what will give you the most bang for your buck. Here’s what you need know.
The simple answer is this: Whatever activity you like and can do is the B-E-S-T. This may seem like a cop-out answer, but it’s 1,000% true. Don’t get caught up in what you think you “should be doing.” Instead, tune in to what type of movement your body needs. Focus on discovering activities that are enjoyable, sustainable, accessible, and suit your current fitness level. Because, in the end, that’s what matters most. Rekha Kumar, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Found, supports that idea. In her practice, she tells her patients, “Anything is better than nothing—and the most gains are made when people just start moving.” She doesn’t prescribe a specific exercise routine to all her patients because no two paths are the same. People have different medical complexities and physical limitations that need to be considered. Yet, when possible, Dr. Kumar emphasizes the need to include resistance and aerobic exercise into your routine.
There’s also plenty of science to back this up. In September 2020, for example, a group of researchers published a meta-analysis (a fancy way of saying they compared several previous trials) of 45 studies with over 3500 participants. They wanted to determine which exercise plan was best for adults living with obesity. The study authors found that any kind of movement was more effective than none at all. (No surprise there.) But they also discovered that combining high-intensity aerobics and challenging resistance training was better at reducing waist circumference and body fat percentage as well as improving cardiorespiratory fitness.
While weight loss wasn’t one of the benefits, the change in body composition shows why paying attention to non-scale victories (NSVs) is a legit victory.
Cardio exercise can improve your stamina, increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce fat storage because of its effects on leptin (one of your appetite hormones). It also increases growth hormone and adiponectin levels, which help lower abdominal fat and free fatty acids.
Resistance training may also boost lean mass (ahem, muscle 💪) and lower free radical and A1C levels. Free radicals are a type of molecule that can cause cell damage—and having high levels can put you at risk for diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and depression. And your A1C level is what doctors check to determine your risk for diabetes.
You can see how these two types of exercise create a powerful duo, right? But again, this isn’t the *only* kind of movement that produces results—especially if you’ve just committed to being more active.
The 2020 study specifically noted that whatever exercise routine you choose—and at any level of intensity—the main point is to try combining cardio exercise with strength training. All levels of intensity can help with weight care and cardiovascular health.
It may be tough to figure out how hard you should work out—we get it. But it can help to use the rate of perceived exertion (RPE). It’s a scale that goes from 0 to 10 and works like this:
0-1 Extremely low effort
2-3 Little effort
4-5 Moderate effort
6-7 Somewhat heavy
8-9 Very heavy effort
10- Maximum effort
If you’re new to exercise, start at a lower intensity (an RPE of 0-3) and work up to a more moderate level (RPE 4-6). Then, when it feels right, try high-intensity exercise (8-10 RPE).
But aim to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. Feel free to break that time up however you want! Also key: Doing muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 times a week.
And remember that these guidelines are, well, guidelines—and if you’re not hitting them, don’t sweat it. The important thing is to start somewhere. Any movement matters! Here are some suggestions from Found to get the ball rolling:
Take some time to log your meals, movement, and other dailies in the app to track your progress. It gives you time to reflect, and science shows it supports your success.
Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.