Variety is the key to fitness success

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Those who resolved to get fit in 2013 will need an exercise program with lots of variety, says a University of Missouri Extension exercise physiologist.

"When you look at the data, most people who start exercise programs quit within the first six months," said Stephen Ball. "Fad exercises or fad pieces of equipment are going to work at the beginning, but extreme things rarely work in the long run."

Ball said using different exercises and equipment can add variety to an exercise regime, but individuals will get their best results if they choose physical activity that they can do consistently and for a lifetime.

"You need cardiovascular exercises to improve your heart and lungs, strength training for muscles and bones, and exercises that improve flexibility," Ball said.

Beware of exercise devices that promise results like six-pack abs, because those promises are misleading, Ball said. Muscle definition is invisible when it's hidden under fat, and spot exercises won't reduce fat in specific areas. Cardiovascular exercises and watching what we eat are needed to eliminate excess fat, he said.

It's easy to get discouraged when an individual stops seeing results from physical activity. Plateaus, the bane of every fitness program, occur because the body adjusts to an activity over time.

"You're going to hit a point where you're not seeing the tremendous gains that you saw at the beginning of the exercise program," Ball said.

To overcome plateaus individuals need to add variety. Within cardiovascular exercises, there are many different things that can be done to add variety and stimulate new gains, Ball said.

"Maybe you're already strength training, but within strength training how can we add variety? You change the types of lifts you're doing, change the amount of rest between sets, or change the amount of reps," Ball said.

Those who are new to physical activity should start slowly and pay attention to pain.

"'No pain, no gain' is a myth. You don't need to hurt yourself to gain fitness," he said.

Some soreness should be expected after a workout, but individuals don't want to be so sore that they will give up exercising, Ball said.

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