For years infomercials have played off the elusive dream of one-stop fitness -- a contraption or exercise routine that provides a total body workout to those big and small, young and old.
This one-size-fits-all approach is misguided, according to exercise experts. We should be exercising according to the kind of life we lead -- each person is going to bring different exercise needs to the table according to their personal preference and physical capabilities.
ABC News asked leading fitness experts and kinethseiologists to weigh in on which exercises are a best fit for people of various ages, stages of life and level of fitness. As always, experts recommend consulting with a physician before starting any exercise program.
The Couch Potato -- aka, the Exercise Newbie:
Expert Favorite: Walking plus weight lifting
They haven't been friendly with the gym for years, or maybe they were just never the exercise-type, but they're turning over a new leaf. Former couch potatoes should resist the temptation to jump on the treadmill, fitness experts warn. Exercise tolerance -- the amount of exertion one's body can handle -- "is not something to be messed with," says Jason West, clinical assistant professor in the exercise and sports medicine department at the University of Tulsa.
For people who haven't been active in a long time, "they're almost like a kid in their training age. Their room for gain is huge, but they're going to have muscle soreness or injuries if they don't start slow," he says.
West recommends starting with a walking program, supplemented with some weight training on machines. Because lifting free weights requires balancing the body while lifting, weight lifting machines are a good place to start because people can "just sit in a comfortable position and focus on one muscle group," he says.
"A lot of times people are sitting at their job ten hours a day and then think they can go and work out," says Wendy Dolen, exercise physiologist and wellness coordinator at M-Healthy at the University of Michigan. She agrees with walking as a starting point for those new to working out, but also emphasizes moving throughout the day so that the workouts are such a shock to the body. "Answer the telephone standing, hand-deliver a message, anything to incorporate movement into your day as well," she says.
With those who are new to working out, there's always a high risk of falling back onto their sedentary ways, says Peter Walters, associate professor in the Applied Health Science Department, Wheaton College. "Half of people who begin an exercise program aren't continuing after two months. My thought is, 'What is an activity that someone cannot just do, but enjoy?'," he says. "For the elderly that's often walking, for younger people that tends to be some kind of group exercise class or activity."