This is one of those questions which is up there with “what is the best diet?” and ‘’what weight should I be for my height?”
All of these answers depend entirely on the individual. All of us know someone who is intolerant or allergic to a certain food, because different foods react differently upon each individual. Likewise for exercise – we are all built with different capacities and strengths.
You may have heard about somatotypes; ectomorphs, endomorphs and mesomorphs – think Nick Willis, Precious McKenzie (google it if you’re too young to know who that is) and Valerie Adams. Three individuals who do world class training and come out looking three different ways. All still fit, all strong, all healthy, all champions.
So will training alone earn you a Sharapova-like physique if you’re built like Williams or can you ever have a body like Bolt, when you’re 5 foot 2? The nature versus nurture debate has been around as long as sport itself. Although training can influence body shape, it is media driven typecasting that creates doubt that being 5 foot 2 is good enough and says we’re all supposed to look like Sharapova. The evidence that this is unachievable (let alone unhealthy) is overwhelming.
Studies show that our early physical experiences play a part in the growth and adaptability of our body. This is why it is vital for children to play. So if you played soccer for five years as a child, it is likely that taking up soccer again as an adult, will be both enjoyable (as you already have a modicum of skill) and something your body will re-adapt to quicker than trying something completely new.
If you did gymnastics as a kid, you may not want to re-visit that entirely; however you may remain more flexible than your peers and your balance could also be better, so something that involves jumping and agility (dance class/volleyball/handball) might do the trick.
A burden of the modern age is that it does not now provide adequate resistance to even maintain muscle and joint health, let alone improve it, so some level of resistance training (weights) is an absolute must. Weight bearing activity not only raises your metabolism by creating more lean muscle tissue, but it preserves joint mobility and bone strength – the two biggest complaints as we get older.
This is of course where I say that getting a personal trainer to put you on the right track is as sensible as getting a lawyer to represent you in court. Qualified exercise professionals are trained in how the human body works and the good ones have plenty of experience helping others get the best out of their unique one.
The right mix of exercise for you is one that includes resistance training, is enjoyable enough for you to do regularly, that progressively increases in challenge in line with your improvements, and keeps you healthy and uninjured. Ignore the idea that you have to look like Bolt when you’re 5 foot 2. You have to be the healthiest possible version of yourself. That’s all.