Variety is a vital element of a well-rounded fitness routine. Not only does it prevent boredom, but performing various forms of exercise will challenge both your body and mind to adapt to different intensities, movements and cognitive stimuli.
For example, if you walk or run on the treadmill every day during your lunch break, you’re providing a consistent cardiorespiratory challenge. But, if you take that walk out to a hiking trail on the weekends, the varied terrain and the constantly shifting intensity will keep your mind and body on their toes and challenge them in new ways.
In addition, repeatedly working the same muscle groups in the same ways will eventually become not only boring, but also less effective because the body will adapt to that specific form of “stress” and no longer improve its function. The training stimulus needs to be systematically and periodically altered for continued improvements.
In addition, variety can bring excitement, challenge and fun to your exercise routine.
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Make Sure Your Workout Has Variety
Variety can take many forms when you’re talking about physical activity. If you enjoy roller skating or swimming, for example, you may want to incorporate those activities into your routine. However, if you hop on the elliptical machine at the gym every morning and don’t want to tinker with what is a consistent routine, variety may mean adding high-intensity intervals one day a week or using the elliptical as part of a circuit-training program that targets muscular endurance in addition to cardiorespiratory fitness.
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10 Ways to Mix Up Your Exercise Routine
Consider the following 10 strategies to spice up your routine. These tips can help keep your exercise interesting and make continued progress toward your health, fitness and wellness goals.
Exercise with a friend.
Having a workout partner not only makes things more fun but also adds an element of accountability that can actually make you exercise more regularly. Knowing someone else is counting on you can be the push you need to make it to the gym on those days when your motivation may be lacking.
Focus on “physical activity” rather than “exercise.”
Reframing exercise as physical activity reminds us that movement doesn’t have to be regimented or gym-based to be effective. If you enjoy dancing or gardening, for example, incorporate those into your routine to add variety and fun.
Try a new class.
If you have a set routine, mix things up by trying a new group fitness class. For example, if you regularly attend dance-based classes, a yoga or Pilates session may deliver an element of fitness that you didn’t even realize you were missing.
Also, if you typically work out on your own, joining a class can be a welcome change of pace that makes things a bit more fun.
“Gamify” your workouts.
There are all kinds of ways to “gamify” your workouts, from literally playing active video games with your family to adding an element of chance to your workouts by rolling dice or flipping over cards to determine the exercise or the number of repetitions you’ll be performing.
Adding competition to a partner workout can also add to the fun factor while increasing the intensity. For example, challenge yourself to hold a plank while your partner performs body-weight squats and then switch roles. The mores reps they do, the longer you have to plank.
Try exercise videos or apps.
Workout videos and apps are a great way to add variety to home-based exercise routines. There are countless videos online, so take on a “30 days of yoga” challenge or try one new type of exercise each week. You can also use apps to track your performance and progress, which can be a great source of motivation when you’re having a hard time staying on track.
Sign up for an event.
Having a set date when you want to achieve something or take part in an event provides a built-in deadline and set of goals. For example, if you sign up for a half-marathon six months from now, that will serve as motivation to stick to a strict exercise routine with steppingstone objectives along the way. The combination of short- and long-term goals can be very motivating.
Change the focus of your workout.
Perhaps you perform 30 minutes on the exercise bike every morning to build cardiorespiratory endurance. Change things up by adding intervals to focus on intensity rather than duration.
Or, if you regularly perform strength-training workouts, change the tempo at which you do the movements, shorten the rest periods between exercises or do fewer sets but with more repetitions. Challenging the body in new ways can drive new results, even within the context of a familiar workout.
Exercising outside is a great way to add variety to a workout. And outdoor exercise — also known as green exercise — provides stress relief and other health benefits beyond what’s seen when performing the same exercise indoors.
Don’t be afraid to be a beginner. Learning new forms of physical activity — from dancing to paddle boarding — can be a great way to stimulate both the mind and body. And, you might just discover a new passion that becomes a mainstay in your active lifestyle.
Join a recreation league.
Playing games is the perfect way to get moving while having fun and meeting new people. Many communities have adult recreation leagues, playing everything from cornhole and pickleball to kickball and beach volleyball.
Playing sports, no matter the level of competition, is a great reminder that fitness and wellness isn’t always about counting reps, steps or calories.
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