There’s something quite comfortable about a familiar workout. You know the moves, space and how good you’ll feel afterward. You can free up mental space to think about other things, such as what you should have said instead to that weird comment from your mother and what you need to pick up on the way home. But a classic study from the University of Florida shows that when you switch up your physical routine, you’re more likely to keep going and your time working out is more effective. Even better, when you change routines, you can live longer.
“One of the main reasons people stop exercising is that they get bored. Variety is good for other reasons, too. You should do cardiorespiratory exercises one day and then strength training and flexibility the next and then alternate days,” the Florida researchers said.
One easy way to mix it up is to subscribe to ClassPass, which can introduce you to new studios and classes nearby that you might not find otherwise. Or maybe start with some of these weird and wonderful workouts for inspiration.
Horseback Yoga: You don’t have to be an expert yogi or rider to do horseback yoga. You’ll work on breathing, balance, strength, and connection with these majestic beasts. In Washington, take a trip to Bow in Northern Skagit County to practice with Jesse Tierney; visit Natalie Riggs at Shakti Ranch for a double dose of yoga and equine therapy in Malibu, California; and if you’re in Texas, Bear Creek Stables provides occasional informal horse yoga classes individually or at the University of Texas at Austin.
Roller Derby: Roller derby is tough, graceful and always exhilarating. But don’t worry about getting knocked around your first few times on the rink. You’ll improve core strength, balance, and overall muscle tone—and there’s no booty like a derby booty. Derby associations, mostly run by volunteer love and sweat, offer classes to newcomers, referee-wannabes and old pros. In Southern California, try Derby Dolls in Los Angeles or Orange County Roller Derby; Dallas Derby Devils in Texas; and Rat City Roller Derby in Seattle.
AntiGravity Fitness: It sounds counterintuitive to work out in a hammock, but gymnasts who wanted all the range of movement without the joint strain brought this workout to the masses. The founding philosophy is that for optimal health and agility, you have to keep stretching the spine and using your muscles. There are workouts for all levels, from restorative to athletic, and studio locations around the world.
Weighted Hula Hooping: Weighted hoops can appease your cardio needs and strengthen your core, as well as your arms and legs. A light hoop requires more energy to maintain, but with a heavier hoop, you may be able to keep it moving longer. The great thing is that you can do this nearly anywhere—no studio required. Try the Hooplovers 30-Day Hula Hoop Workout, available on video.
Aerial Fitness: Aerialists in the circus make all those breathtakingly beautiful moves look easy, but really, they’re relying on their intense strength and flexibility. You can get that too, along with a better posture and new brain synapses at a number of locations including Urban Aerial Fitness in Orange County, California; the Aerial Classroom in Sylmar, in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley; the Aerial Warehouse in Culver City, California; Vertical Fitness Dallas; or Ascendance Pole & Aerial Arts in Renton, Washington.
These are all amazing, but don’t burn your gym membership just yet—there’s time for all the workouts—or to just vary what you’re already doing.
The Florida researchers suggested that if you prefer a home workout, do aerobics one day, go for a run the next and do something different the third day, such as lift weights. Even if you’re a fan of a particular form of exercises, such as yoga, swimming or dance, try to find variations within those forms to keep it fresh and fun and get your fitness on.