September 1, 2009
To change or not to change…that is the question.
The answer - change can be a good thing. In fact, varying your exercise routine can have a number of benefits, including preventing boredom and avoiding plateau.
Tired of the same ol’ same ol’?
You’re not alone. Many people find that doing the same workouts over and over becomes monotonous, and as a result they may begin to lose their desire to continue to exercise on a regular basis. Research has shown however that adding variety to an exercise program can help to improve adherence. Exercise scientists as the University of Florida observed that individuals who modified their workouts every two weeks over an eight-week period appeared to enjoy their workouts more, and were more inclined to stick with their exercise programs when compared to individuals who followed the same workout regimens week after week.
So what’s in it for me?
Aside from alleviating boredom, varying your exercise routine can also help you stay physically challenged. Many of the body’s physiological systems (e.g., the muscular systems) adapt to an exercise program within approximately six to eight weeks. Failure to modify your exercise routine will cause you to reach a plateau, as your body will have adapted to the repetitive training stimulus.
I want to change, but I don’t know how.
There are several ways you can spice up your current workout routine, including boosting the intensity of your workouts. For instance, if you jog or run, try incorporating some intervals of sprinting (e.g., sprint to a given landmark, then jog to the next one) or adding more hill work to your run. You can also cross train and perform different activities to provide your body with a new challenge. A nice alternative for resistance-training exercises involves changing the sequence in which you perform the training exercises. By fatiguing the muscles in a new order or pattern, you are requiring them to adapt to a new training stimulus. Another option for adding variety to strength-training workouts is to replace some or all of the exercises in your workout routine (e.g., substitute a dumbbell pectoral fly exercise on a stability ball for your typical barbell bench press exercise).
What if change isn’t for me?
While there are many benefits to varying your exercise routine, keep in mind that doing the exact same workout, day after day is not necessarily a bad thing. Some people enjoy a predictable, consistent routine, and they don't mind the possibility of experiencing a training plateau as they are content to maintain their health and fitness levels with a comfortable exercise habit.
However, if you are one of the many individuals that has desire to take your workouts to new levels and to try different activities in order to stay enthusiastic and excited about exercise, go ahead and embrace change and add something new to your workout today! Remember that by varying exercise routines, you will not only stay physically challenged, but mentally stimulated as well.
Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYTContributor
Jessica Matthews, M.S., E-RYT is assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College. As a leading fitness expert, writer and educator Jessica is a regular contributor to numerous publications, including Shape and Oprah.com. She holds a B.S. in physical education teacher education from Coastal Carolina University and M.S. in physical education from Canisius College. She is a certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Health Coach through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as well as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) through Yoga Alliance and trained stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga instructor. Prior to teaching at Miramar, Jessica worked full-time ACE, serving in a number of key roles including exercise physiologist, certification director and senior health and fitness editor. Her past work also includes serving as aquatics director at Conway Medical Wellness and Fitness Center and designing health and physical education curriculum for grades K-12. Full Bio Jessica Matthews »