Does Your Workout Do It All?

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verticalPhotographed By Jens Ingvarsson.
We tend to play favorites at the gym, cherry-picking the classes and workouts we enjoy and conveniently ignoring everything else. There's only so much time in a day, right? But, constantly doing the same routine over and over again may be road-blocking all of your feel-good, look-good efforts, according to new research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Instead, integrating a variety of workouts into your overall training schedule is a smarter use of your time, the study says.

The researchers divided 57 overweight, out-of-shape adults (36 women and 21 men) into three groups: The first remained sedentary, another performed intense resistance training four times per week, and the third followed a diverse protocol that included resistance workouts, interval sprints, stretching, and endurance exercise. The participants also consumed 60 grams of whey protein daily.

After 16 weeks, all subjects saw a decrease in body fat, which speaks to the power of protein. However, the group that followed the varied training program saw the greatest health boost, including improved blood glucose levels, reduction in waist circumference and abdominal fat, and increased muscle mass.

The concept of following a well-rounded exercise regime isn’t new; the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) touts a four-pillared approach to fitness that includes a weekly mix of cardiorespiratory, resistance, neuromotor (balance, agility, and coordination drills), and flexibility training — commonly referred to as "cross-training." This recent study supports the ACSM's recommendations and proves the best type of fitness program is one that integrates all types of workout styles.

Study author Paul J. Arciero, DPE, director of the human nutrition and metabolism laboratory at Skidmore College, coined the fitness acronym PRISE: protein, resistance, interval training, stretching, and endurance. "It's not about simply doing more exercise," Dr. Arciero told ScienceDaily. "It's about doing the appropriate range of exercises and activities that most effectively promote health and fitness."

Varying your routine doesn't only prevent plateaus; it also wards off boredom and overuse injuries. So, if you crush it on the treadmill every morning, it’s time to PRISE and shine and show your yoga mat some love — or switch things up by adding a total-body summer circuit to your training repertoire.