It doesn’t take much for a routine to become,well, routine. Slog away at any activity for long enough and boredom can ruin your motivation. It happens to skilled athletes and novices alike. “People get into an exercise program, and they fade out of it,” says Dale Wagner, PhD, president of the American Society of Exercise Physiologists and an associate professor of exercise physiology at Utah State University. Mixing things up can help. “If they have more activities, they won’t get bored.” But that’s not the only reason switching up your regimen is essential. Repeat the same moves over and over again, and you’ll set yourself up for overuse injuries. “It’s about doing a variety of activities,” says Wagner. “If you run over a long period of time, certain muscles tend to shorten. It’s like when you sit in a chair all the time. Your hip flexors shorten.”
Trying new exercises can also keep your body guessing. “If all we do is walk on a flat surface at the same pace, not varying [our] workout, the body becomes very efficient,” says Cherilyn Hultquist, PhD, an assistant professor of health, physical education, and sport science at Kennesaw (Ga.) State University. That means that your body uses less energy from food to power your workout once you’ve mastered a skill than when you first start. You don’t have to introduce an entirely new exercise to reap the benefits, either (though doing that can help beat boredom). If you do pick a new activity or make a major change to your exercise plan, check with your doctor first. Read on to learn about some fun exercises—for seasoned athletes and those just getting started.
If you're a BENCH WARMER
then try … hula hooping, active video games, or yoga
Let’s get one thing straight: It’s never too late to start exercising. Now is the perfect time to add bits of exercise to your day—just remember to begin slowly and get your doctor’s OK.
You probably tried it as a kid, but hula hooping is a terrific low-impact aerobic activity for adults, too. You can use a typical plastic hoop or choose a weighted one for a tougher workout. (You can find them in many sporting goods stores.) The right hoop will hit at your stomach or chest when placed vertically on the ground in front of you, but pick a larger hoop if your waist is wide. It’ll take some practice to find your groove—and that’s part of the fun. Once you get a good rhythm, try to keep going for 10 minutes and build from there.
It may seem counterintuitive, but playing certain video games can improve your fitness. A 2006 study in the journal Pediatrics found that kids burned twice as many calories playing active video games as they did playing more traditional ones. If you’re willing to shell out $200 for a Nintendo Wii, you can try out a handful of sports without commitment. (The system comes with a Wii Sports sampler, but add-ons, like the Wii balance board, cost extra.) Dance, Dance Revolution is another active video game (available for multiple gaming systems) that’s both fun and aerobically challenging.
For something more low-key, try yoga. It is “just a fantastic way to improve strength and flexibility,” says Hultquist. Many gyms and local community centers offer classes for members, but you can also try stand-alone yoga studios. To get the most out of a class, tell the instructor right away that you’re new; he or she will be able to better guide you and explain how to modify difficult moves. And make sure you start with a beginner’s lesson—some studios offer advanced classes as well. Certain types of yoga, such as hatha, “gentle,” “restorative,” or “laughter” yoga, are especially suited to novices.
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