Is it bad to work out the same way every time you exercise?

Fitness experts weigh in on the importance of variety in exercise routines.

Creating a workout routine isn’t always easy, but once you find some activities you enjoy doing, it’s easier to find your workout groove. Whether it’s walking every day, dancing, or taking a Pilates class three days a week, exercise has so many physical and mental benefits that any type of exercise is a win.

But what happens when you do the same thing day in and day out? Is it “bad” for you to stick to a narrow fitness routine? Does being a runner or yogi strictly speaking do more harm than good? Here are some thoughts on the importance of exercise variety and helpful tips to get rid of fitness stereotypes (or prevent fitness in the first place).

Doing any kind of exercise is great
The good news: The bottom line is that any exercise is worth it, you’re exercising, and it’s important to get into a routine and enjoy your workout regimen.

In fact, there are some great advantages to maintaining a more consistent routine. Performing the same workout every day is good for building skills, endurance and strengthening the same muscle groups. After all, consistency is a key factor, no matter what your fitness goals are. Working out usually feels like a chore, so once we find a type of exercise we enjoy, whether it’s a kinetic cycling class, jump rope or weight lifting, we’re more likely to do it regularly.

It’s positive that you’re already implementing exercise into your daily life because it can be a challenging thing for people with busy schedules, and consistency and discipline trumps everything else.

It’s better to perform a variety of exercises
That being said, having little to no exercise variation does have its limitations, and mixing up the types of physical activities you do can be very beneficial.

For one thing, while you benefit certain muscle groups or exercises, you may end up neglecting other muscle groups or exercises. Having the same routine every day means that other muscle groups aren’t getting the same benefits, and it can also lead to muscle fatigue and stagnation, which is known as adaptive resistance. That is, when the body becomes so accustomed to performing a movement or exercise that it stops responding to it or making any real progress from it.

Another problem with repetitiveness is that it can lead to injury. When we focus on one type of sport or exercise routine, we tend to neglect other aspects of our body, which can lead to injuries in overused areas or deficiencies in underutilized areas. Some examples of this are shoulder injuries in people who practice power yoga regularly and repeatedly, back strains in weightlifters caused by overuse of muscles or tendon injuries in Pilates routinists.

Doing the same movements day in and day out will also eventually limit your range of motion. Psychologically, while routine is usually a valuable part of life, variety (think: new experiences, learning processes, task switching and mental flexibility) also helps keep the brain in good shape, especially as we age. A study published in the Journal of Gerontology found that adults with greater diversity in daily activities exhibited “higher overall cognitive function and higher executive function. Why not do your brain a favor by changing things up while you’re on the move?

Research has also found that combining exercise type and intensity can lead to even more wonderful health benefits. For example, a 2022 meta-analysis in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that 30 to 60 minutes of strength training per week helped reduce the risk of all-cause mortality, heart disease and certain cancers by 10 to 17 percent. That in itself is good news. But then it also found evidence that doing strength training and aerobic exercise at the same time leads to even more impressive longevity benefits: a 40 percent reduction in all-cause mortality, a 46 percent reduction in the risk of heart disease, and a 28 percent reduction in the risk of dying from cancer.

Mix and match for total body balance
Ready to try something new? It’s best to aim for a holistic program that includes flexibility training (such as yoga and stretching), strength training (long exercises such as weight lifting, plank support and resistance training), mobility work and cardio, which can be any type of cardiovascular activity that gets your heart rate up.

The benefits of flexibility are fewer injuries, better posture and better performance. Weight training will increase bone density, improve cardiovascular health and reduce stress. Mobility training will help ease the tension associated with exercise, increase your range of motion, and increase your chances of living longer. Finally, aerobic exercise can help your heart pump more efficiently, get your lungs working better, and strengthen your tendons, ligaments and bones.

Overwhelmed? Consider the above as a reference point or workout menu to return to for inspiration. Make sure you have a balanced approach to any exercise or activity you choose to do each day. Don’t just do squats every day – mix things up and have a balanced approach to your training and health journey.

Remember that even trying a new type of exercise can be a great way to complement a healthy exercise routine. Also remind yourself that each form of exercise provides different benefits to your body, which will improve overall fitness performance and life expectancy.

Research shows that it’s okay to “catch up” on your workouts on the weekend – but should you?

Think about what you already do, then add or adjust
Even if you’re a true creature of habit, find ways to diversify your workouts. Here’s a recommendation for good old-fashioned walking. If you’re hesitant to change your workout habits, [walking] is free and requires no special equipment. It can prevent or control high blood pressure and heart disease, and help you lose body fat. With the right partner, it can be downright entertaining.

Already a walker? Try walking up an incline or a flight of stairs instead of working different muscles on a flat surface. Jog for five minutes at the end of your walk. Stick to 10 minutes of weight training or wear some light ankle or arm weights (such as a wearable barre bracelet) while walking to increase strength and add an extra challenge. Here are seven ways you can get more out of your walks

Try a group fitness class (or live online)
Those who work out alone may want to try taking one or two group fitness classes a week. They’re often more fun than working out alone, and having an instructor can help you stay motivated throughout the class. Plus, you can rely on the instructor (rather than yourself) to add variety. Most importantly, most instructors usually aim for a total body experience. Even if you’re in a core-focused class, you’ll likely warm up and cool down your entire body, eventually engaging more areas than just your abs. Not a fan of face-to-face fitness classes? There are plenty of online streaming options out there.

If you already enjoy group fitness and like the workouts you participate in, consider expanding your list of trainers. This will put you in familiar territory, but hit the refresh button to make some much-needed changes.

Rest is part of any workout program
Both trainers agree that no matter what type of exercise you perform, recovery is vital to your body and should be included in all fitness programs. Remember to listen to your body, rest is just as important as exercise.