There’s a saying that goes: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. And for workouts, that sentiment couldn’t be more true.
Doctors recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. If you’re consistently hitting those marks, your commitment is admirable, but sticking with the same workout can, over time, stall progress and lead to boredom and frustration. Remember, the last thing you want to do is make excuses for not exercising.
The secret to avoiding a pesky plateau is progressively switching up your workout by gradually adding more reps, weight or distance; using different equipment, like resistance bands or kettle bells; mixing strength training into a cardio session or trying something new altogether, says Jennifer Lee, DO, a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Vista.
Changes in your workout don’t have to be drastic to be effective and keep your muscles engaged.
“I get bored very easily if I just do the same workout, so I change it up with different types of exercise,” Dr. Lee says. “For example, if you’re doing aerobics, I would switch from running to swimming or jump roping.”
Incorporating compound movements that target multiple muscle groups can also help fitness fans rev up their workouts. Variations of squats and dead lifts are a great place to start. More experienced exercisers may benefit from adding on even more, such as combination bicep curl lunges, squats with overhead raises, barbell hip raises and a clean and press.
There are many ways to maintain brain health. Adding some variety to your exercise routine is one way, Dr. Lee says. Studies have shown that regular exercise improves memory, cognition and focus and learning new moves boosts brain power and increases neuroplasticity.
“When you’re learning a new thing, you’re letting your brain get used to it,” she says. “Then you start to have your muscles build endurance.”
Dr. Lee also stresses the importance of rest. Recovery days help alleviate inflammation, repair and build muscle, replenish energy, reduce the risk for injury and help support your immune system.
Signs your body needs rest include being unable to complete your usual workout or feeling sluggish mid-routine, binge eating or craving comfort food afterward, muscle pain and either sleeping too much or having difficulty sleeping.
“Those are all signs and symptoms saying you need to rest your body,” she says. “That’s telling your body you’re stressed out. You’re in high flight-or-fight mode.”