A young adult I know recently completed his DPT, Doctor of Physical Therapy. As a result of his degree, he is now inundated with a repeated query. Everyone wants to stay healthy. Everyone is concerned with getting infected. So everyone asks the same question: what is the best exercise?
Is running, biking, or swimming best for cardio? What about the treadmill or Peloton? Should I work out alone or with friends? What about socially distant group exercise? Do you prefer CrossFit, Orange Theory, or F3? Should I do more repetitions with less weight or fewer repetitions with heavier barbells?
What about frequency of exercise? Should I get out there six days a week for half an hour or should I go less frequently but workout longer?
These queries remind me of college choice questions about "good" colleges.
Although I remember hearing somewhere that one size doesn't fit all, that one man's meat is another man's poison. Is it possible that there are no "good" colleges, only good fits? Aren't some exercises better than others?
The answer is that the best exercise is the one you do. That's it, we're done here. Move along. Nothing more to see. The best exercise is the one you do. Period.
Yes, there are some workout animals who can get fit pretty much anywhere. A ten-thousand square foot gym with a million dollars of equipment or a small hotel room with a bed and a chair work equally well. Alone or in a group doesn't matter. Their motivation, experience, and fitness level allow them to get all the benefit regardless of venue or company.
Similarly, some brilliant, focused students would learn anywhere--in a sparse room under a bare lightbulb with only a battered text book and a stale loaf of bread. But for most of us, it's about the right fit. The best college is the one where you do well, where you fit in, where you perform, where you connect academically and socially.
Which is why lists of the "best" programs at the "best" colleges are of such limited usefulness. There is seldom one best exercise; there are always any number of good college fits. Talk about using a micrometer to measure something that is going to be cut with an axe. A recent ranking suggests that the math department at UCLA is better than the math department at the University of Chicago. Really? And Los Angeles and Chicago have similar climates, campuses, faculty, and average class sizes as well. "Better" should be the least of your issues.
The "methodology" used by the rankers might as well try to quantify why you love your children. But the most inane is the post hoc ergo prompter hoc* of measuring the salaries of graduates. Kids with math degrees from "top" math programs make more money than kids with math degrees from programs with lower ratings. Oh, please. Did it ever occur to the folks making up these bogus criteria that:
- there might be a difference between which kids go to these programs?
- that not everybody who starts a math degree finishes with one?
- that a strong math student attending a program with a poor rating will do just fine thank you very much?
Here's what never happens: a good student at a "bad" college with a "bad" math program asks a "bad" professor a question to which the teacher responds, "Uh, I dunno, what function is its own derivative?" There are more than enough math PhDs at more than enough colleges to answer every question. Even North Cornstalk State College or University has professors who are more than competent. Indeed, profs at NCSCorU are un-stumpable by any undergraduate.
We keep talking about programs as if all things were equal. Indeed, except in mathematical equations, things are seldom equal. The best exercise is the one you do. The best math program is the one where you do well. The best college is the one at which you succeed.
No matter where you go, there you are. My advice is to go where you belong.
* "after this, therefore because of this"