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Variety is the key to fitness success


Debbie Johnson
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9183

Photo available for this release:

"Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity." - John F. Kennedy

Credit: Sanja Gjenero

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013

Story source:

Stephen D. Ball, 573-882-2334

Related radio news story by Debbie Johnson. For downloadable broadcast-quality audio, contact Johnson at 573-882-9183.

COLUMBIA, Mo. - If you resolved to get fit in 2013, you’ll 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 you’ll get your best results if you choose physical activity that you 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 you stop 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 you need to add variety. Within cardiovascular exercises, there are many different things you can do 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.

If you’re new to physical activity, Ball suggests that you 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 you don’t want to be so sore that you’ll give up exercising, Ball said.