We enlisted a few top fitness pros to play the deserted island edition of fitness by asking them: “If you could only do one exercise for the rest of your life to stay fit, which exercise would you choose?” Some of the answers were surprising, but all were inspiring.

1. Walking

The trainer: Leslie Sansone
The reason: “Walking is medicine. No other form of exercise has so many proven health benefits,” says walking expert Leslie Sansone, whose latest video is “The Burn to the Beat Walk” DVD. Those science-backed benefits include better cardiovascular health, weight loss and maintenance, and boosts in mood and memory function.
The instructions: Try to walk a minimum of 25 minutes a day, six days a week to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines’ recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week for adults.

2. Downward Facing Dog

The trainer: Kristin McGee
The reason: “The pose stretches and strengthens the entire body, works the core and brings blood flow to the brain,” says yoga pro McGee, who teaches online classes at AcaciaFitness. “It also connects me to my breath.”
The instructions: Start on all fours, hands directly under shoulders and knees under hips. Begin to lift the hips up, shifting your weight back so you create an inverted “V” shape with your body. Weight is in the palms of your hands and the balls of your feet, with heels reaching toward the floor. If hamstrings are tight, keep the knees bent. Press your heels down into (or toward) the floor to stretch the calves. If your heels are not touching the floor, even with bent knees, that’s okay. Let your head relax and gaze softly at your navel.

3. The Man-Maker

The trainer: Gerren Liles
The reason: “The ‘man-maker’ is a full body movement that gets all muscles from head to toe, front to back, combines strength and endurance, and makes you sweat!” says the celebrity trainer who also trains on AcaciaFitness. This might be something to work up to. You can start with just the squat thrusts, without the weights, and progress from there.
The instructions: Stand, feet hip-width apart. Holding a pair of light free weights (1 – 3 lbs), do the following combination without stopping:

  1. Squat thrust: Hold weights at your shoulders and lower into a squat, keeping body weight in your heels. Engage abs, and stand back up pushing weights overhead. Lower arms back to shoulders and repeat the squat, this time placing the dumbells on the floor in front of you.
  2. Push-up: With dumbbells on floor in front of you, jump (or step) legs back so you are in an upper push-up position.
  3. Dumbbell row: Staying in an upper push up position, lift the right elbow up, grab right dumbbell, bringing the dumbbell toward your right shoulder. Return to floor. Repeat on left side. Keep abs engage to protect lower back.
  4. Jump (or step) feet forward to stand: Keeping abs engaged, jump the feet up toward your hands, and keeping your body weight in your heels and your glutes engaged, stand up and curl the weights to your shoulders, then press overhead. Repeat from beginning. Start with one, and increase repetitions and weight as you get stronger.

4. Sun Salutations

The trainer: Christine Bullock
The reason: For a healthy strong body, Bullock, the star of the “10 Minute Solution: Butt Lift” DVD, chooses vinyasa yoga’s Sun Salutation. “The series tones and strengthens the upper body, lower body, and core while flowing through the high and low push-up, and it stretches the front and back of body including decompressing the spine to prevent postural damage.”
The instructions: Each movement is done while inhaling or exhaling, flowing from one pose to the next.

  • Stand tall, with feet together and arms at sides. Inhale as you raise your arms above your head palms facing each other.
  • Exhale as you bend forward from your waist bringing your hands toward the floor.
  • Inhale and lift your torso halfway up, back flat, hands on shins.
  • Exhale, fold forward again.
  • Inhale, place your hands on the floor and step your feet back so you are in a high push up position.
  • Exhale, bend your elbows to lower your torso to the floor. Keep elbows close to your body. (Beginners can bring knees to the ground first. More advanced variation is hovering a few inches from the floor before lowering.)
  • Inhale as you straighten your arms and lift your torso and chest up. Legs stay on the floor with tops of feet flat on floor.
  • Exhale, curl over your toes and lift your hips to downward facing dog.
  • Inhale, step the right foot forward between the hands.
  • Exhale, step the left foot forward to meet the right foot and fold forward.
  • Inhale, sweep the arms up overhead to return to stand.
  • Exhale, release arms to sides.

5. Squats

The trainer: Grace DeSimone
The reason: You want to stay mobile as you age. “You gotta sit down and get up for the rest of your life,” says DeSimone, a fitness expert and editor of American College of Sports Medicine’s Resources for the Group Exercise Instructor. “Sounds easy until you can't get out of the chair.”
The instructions: The beauty of squats is that there is something for everyone. Beginners can start with body weight squats or wall sits and progress by adding weights. Prefer yoga? Chair pose counts. The form is always the same: sit back as if sitting is a chair, center the weight over your ankles, maintain a neutral spine and avoid positions that cause pain.

6. Alternating Plank Slides

The trainer: Alanna Zabel
The reason: The challenging exercise from the star of the upcoming “Element: Beginner Level Yoga” DVD engages your core muscles, plus shoulders, back, arms, legs, and butt.
The instructions: In plank (a high push-up position), ‎place a towel or glider under each foot. Slide the right foot forward toward the right elbow, then slide it back. Repeat with the left foot. Keep alternating feet. Keep shoulders over wrists throughout entire exercise.

7. Dance

The trainer: Amanda Young
The reason: “I would dance, because I internally feel a connection to rhythm of many types of musical genres.” Says the trainer from AcaciaFitness. “The free flowing and total body movements in dancing sets me free.”
The instructions: Just, well, dance.

8. Horse Stance

The trainer: Sifu Romain
The reason: “This simple pose, used in different martial arts, builds endurance and strength in all fitness levels,” says Romain, a World Champion Kung Fu Master.
The instructions: Stand with feet apart about 3-1/2 feet. Pivot feet in, pivot feet out, then parallel your feet and sit down on an imaginary horse. Extend your arms and bend your wrists so fingers face up and palms face forward. Spread fingers wide.

Liz Neporent, director of content, American Council on Exercise Board Emeritus, and co-author of the upcoming book, The Runner’s Brain (Rodale Books), reviewed this article.


How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Page last updated June 4, 2015.

Leslie Sansone, email message to expert, September 1, 2015.

Kristin McGee, email message to expert, September 1, 2015.

Gerren Liles, email message to expert, September 1, 2015.

Christine Bullock, email message to expert, September 1, 2015.

Grace DeSimone, email message to expert, August 30, 2015.

Alana Zabel, email message to expert, September 3, 2015.

Amanda Young, email message to expert, September 1, 2015

Sifu Romain, phone interview with expert, September 4, 2015