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What Summer Olympics sport gets an athlete in the best shape?

The 2012 Summer Olympics are nearly here. And over a two-week period we will see some amzing feats, superior athletes and excellent teamwork.

But what is the best event, fitness-wise? We posed this question and the following are the answers we received: 


I would have to say that swimming or soccer would be the best fitness-wise because of the cardio, and maybe swimming even more because it works all muscles. Although tennis is the sport that I promote and does require a great deal of training at higher levels of competition, the average recreational player doesn’t necessarily have to train. If you want my honest answer, it would be a winter Olympic sport – ice hockey. It combines cardio, with physical, hand-eye coordination, balance, and the ability to skate. That is a sport!

David Carrick
Tennis director
Greenville, S.C.


That’s easy. Decathalon (men), heptathlon (women).

To train, perfect and excel in so many disciplines is a true test of overall physical fitness. Not to mention the mental demands of having each discipline scored individually over the course of 2 days is another reason.

Speed, agility, strength and endurance are all measured and that is the full fitness gambit.

John Bushnell

Membership Manager
LATITUDE sports clubs

Peabody, MA


I believe that the best Summer Olympics event in terms of overall fitness is swimming, for both men and women. All the races in the pool that involve swim strokes, whether backstroke, freestyle, butterfly, relays or medleys, offer advantages to all body types and fitness levels. Whether you are a swimmer for recreation, exercise or elite training purposes, the water offers a forgiving environment to achieve full range of motion for all muscle groups and joints without the disadvantage of joint stress that occurs on land. When fully immersed in the water up to the neck, you only have to bear 10 percent of your body weight as the other 90 percent is handled by the water. The aquatic environment also produces great results for strength in that water is about 12 times as dense as air so the body works harder to propel itself through it. Since swimming is a full-body exercise, not isolating specific muscle groups but incorporating them all through a broad range of motion, the joins and ligaments stay loose and flexible as well.

Linda Mitchell
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
Newtown Athletic & Aquatic Club
Newtown, PA


Shannon Miller, two-time Olympics gymnast, stopped by Sports, Fitness & Fun in Florida, N.Y.I am going to be a bit partial on this subject as my facility has a very strong youth gymnastics program and our gymnasts compete on a State, Regional and National level. We also have several young gymnasts striving to make it to the 2016 Olympics. Sports, Fitness & Fun had a wonderful visit this past weekend, July 14, actually, from Shannon Miller, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. Shannon Miller competed in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics games. To answer your question, gymnastics is a well-rounded sport that requires cardiovascular and muscular strength, balance, agility and flexibility. Gymnastics requires consistency with training and a disciplined mindset. The committed gymnasts often trains five days a week, sometimes morning and night and in competition season the gymnasts competes on the weekends. Gymnastics is also considered to be a foundation sport for many other sports.

Roberta Kruse-Fordham
General Manager
Sports, Fitness & Fun
Florida, N.Y. 


There are many Olympic sports that promote great fitness. In my opinion, I feel that triathlon and boxing are the best. I especially like these two because people of moderate activity levels can obtain the same benefits from these sports as elite athletes. Additionally, many health clubs offer the tools needed to train for these events. 

The Olympic Triathlon includes a 1.5k-meter swim, cycling for 40 kilometers, and a 10-kilometer run. Most health clubs offer at least one trainer who is a certified triathlon coach. For folks who just want to train without competing, I recommend the use of their club’s pool, treadmills, and stationary bikes. Of course the training can also be taken outdoors with the correct resources. 

Many health clubs offer boxing equipment including heavy bags, speed bags and boxing rings. For those who don’t like get hit, I recommend taking a cardio kickbox class or performing pad drills with a buddy or personal trainer. 

Both sports not only build muscular endurance and cardiorespiratory fitness but physiological determination and perseverance.

Ryan Conover
General Manager
Miramont Lifestyle Fitness
Fort Collins, CO


I think the triathlon, decathlon and pentathlon are the most well-rounded fitness contests. Think of the training and diversity that goes into each event.

Bob Good
Onterie Fitness Center


I would probably choose fencing as the most fitness-oriented event, as it combines athleticism with analytical skills. I think that the mental training that is such a big part of fencing prepares the competitors for a lifetime of "competing" for jobs, attention, social position, and unpredictable events. It's more than mental toughness, which I believe all Olympians have; it's a mental clarity and ability to quickly assess a rapidly changing environment. I also think the physical training is fairly rigorous, starting with the weight and restrictiveness of the helmets and chest pad. 

I'm not a fencer at all, so have no idea if this is correct about fencing. It's just my opinion.

Alexandra Williams
Fun and Fit fitness blog 

I would have to say that gymnasts exhibit the most comprehensive example of overall fitness.

Their training regime and sport includes all elements of fitness, including aerobic, anaerobic, strength, endurance, power, flexibility, agility, speed, core stability and balance.

To watch these combined fitness elements expressed in concert with unbelievable grace, focus and artistic expression is breathtaking.  

What these athletes can do with their bodies is a truly remarkable example of human performance!

Molly Kemmer
MediFit Corporate Services, Anschutz Health and Wellness Center
Denver, Colorado

Michele Melkerson-Granryd, general manager at BodyBusiness Health Club & Spa in Austin, Texas, posed the question to many in her staff. The following are their answers.

For overall fitness I would argue the decathlon would demonstrate true overall fitness. It requires endurance, strength, coordination as well as agility. Since the event takes place over several days one must have mental toughness and discipline to bounce back and perform at peak ability for each event - blocking out your performance to that point.

Also, the variety of distances tests both explosiveness and also endurance. Where as other events may only test one.

My second selection would be boxing, as I agree with Stephen; however the matches are shorter at the Olympics.

Jeff Bowman
Personal Trainer


I vote triathlon!!! It's the combination of three different sports, all with benefits of different impacts on body, movement and focus of muscles groups, core function as per event (swim, bike, run). Trains the heart rate efficiently, as max heart rate is sport specific.

It's all in one package!

Catherine Robinson
Personal Trainer

I would choose swimming and think that it is a balanced all body exercise:

  • Broad range of motion of different muscles & ligaments
  • Aerobic (good for the heart), stretches, tones and strengthens muscles
  • Good resistance exercise (water denser than air)
  • Produces elongated more relaxed muscles instead of bunched up
  • A very focused & present exercise
  • Good range and movement of joints; not harsh impact to the skeletal system
  • Meditative
  • Great for the lungs and oxygenating the blood (increase lung volume)
  • Detoxifying
  • Body becomes lighter in the water & is good for over weight or arthritic people to work sore joints and stiff muscles
  • Good for bone strength
  • Moist air workout good for asthma suffers
  • Deep rhythmic breathing, stretching & relaxing, like Yoga

Ceil Embleton
Massage Therapist


My vote is for boxing!

  • They need to have great endurance to be able to go for a long bouts
  • They need to have great strength to generate enough force
  • They need to have great power to produce enough strength in the shortest amount of time, i.e., knocking out their opponent with a big swing
  • They need to be durable to be able to withstand a beat down for a long time
  • They need to have great agility and speed so they can move and change directions quickly
  • They need to have great hand-eye coordination, the ability to react to sensory perception
  • They need to have great analytical skills to be able to react quickly while under distress
  • They need to have nerves of steel so that they can overcome the fear of getting hit or knocked out.
  • They need to be flexible

Stephen DeLanoy
Personal Trainer


Reader Comments (1)

I absolutely don't think that triathlon should be on that list. People who end-up competing in triathlon have failed reaching their goals in other sport. Just like ski-cross is an Olympic event for failed alpine skiers.
November 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSpringBrett

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