Exercise is important no matter what your age or fitness level. Choosing to maintain a physical activity regimen can help you build strength, endurance and even slow the aging process.
The trouble is, a go-to workout routine that helps you stay fit and makes you feel good can turn into a rut. Over time, your body becomes accustomed to the routine and reaches a sort of peak.
The Benefits Of Mixing Up Your Workouts
Since variety is the spice of life, it's probably no surprise that diversifying your workouts produces the best results. After all, it's important to keep both body and mind guessing so you can achieve peak performance.
- Challenge your body: Once your body gets acclimated to exercise, it can reach a plateau. Changing up your workouts not only helps you stay on your toes and keeps you engaged. It can also help you grow stronger and more fit. Switching things up is especially important if you want to lose weight. A varied routine that includes strength training, endurance exercise and high-intensity intervals can help you lose fat and gain lean body mass.
- Work new muscles: When you vary your workout, you’ll hit muscles you may not use on a regular basis. You'll be sore in new areas and target muscle groups you've never used before. You might even correct muscle imbalances. Add it all together and a diversified workout routine will produce better full-body results.
- Prevent injury: If you engage in the same activity over and over again, you put yourself at risk of developing a repetitive use injury. When you overtax one area of the body, it wears down over time. Working different muscles on different days allows each muscle group to recover during "off" days.
- Keep exercise interesting: Sure, doing the same workout routine is comfortable. Even easy. You know what to expect and you know you can hack it. But repeating the same workout each time you step into the gym can get, well, boring. When you look at exercise as an adventure, you're better equipped to challenge yourself and explore something new during every workout. A bonus: If you're constantly mixing things up, you're more likely to stay engaged and continue exercising.
How To Get Diversified
First, don't fret. You don't have to abandon your thrice-weekly runs to get the benefits of a more diversified workout routine. The idea is to strengthen your whole body with a variety of workouts so you can perform better at your preferred activity — and if you're aging, improve your mobility and ensure you're able to maintain activities of daily living.
A few simple strategies:
- Sneak in new activities. You can maintain your regular workout while also peppering in new activities. Like to run? Pause and do side lunges during your route so you're not only working in a forward motion. You can even drop and do a set of push-ups at each stop light or stop sign. That way, you're folding a strength training routine into your regular cardio workout.
- Target different muscles during each workout. As you get more experienced with different workouts, you can plan your week so that you're targeting different muscles on different days. Maybe you do a strength-training workout followed by a quick 10-minute run on Mondays and Wednesdays; yoga or stretching on Tuesdays and Thursdays and long runs over the weekend. The idea is to build a schedule that makes sense according to your needs and preferences.
- Don't be afraid to try something new. Intimidated by yoga? Think you're too much of a klutz to try Zumba? Scared of rock climbing? Has it been years since you've picked up a tennis racket? The truth is, it can't hurt to try new activities. You may even discover you like these pursuits more than your regular workout.
The bottom line: There are so many different types of exercise — and many of them don't require training or expensive equipment. Diversifying your routine allows you to find new activities you love (and others you hate). And the more types of exercise you try, the easier it will be to achieve your goals.
Not sure which activities are right for you? Consider meeting with an athletic trainer to develop a program that makes sense based on your unique strengths and weaknesses.
Nick Parkinson, M.Ed., AT, ATC, TSAC-F Supervisor of Athletic Training with Henry Ford Sports Medicine, also leads Sports Performance training at the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine. He is a regular contributor to Henry Ford LiveWell. Learn more about Nick.