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NAP Challenge #8: Variety is Key!

Vigorous ActivityWow – in just six short weeks you've been able to increase the number of minutes you move each day and the intensity-level of several of those minutes. Way to go! You should be well on your way to reaching AICR's ultimate goal of being moderately active for 60 minutes or vigorously active for 30 minutes each day. Now that your body is used to being active, it's time to add some variety to your routine. This week's challenge challenges you to try at least one new activity and consider adding it to your regular physical activity routine.

Adding UP Minutes: This week I will spend at least 30 minutes trying an activity I haven't done before.

OR

Stepping on UP: This week I will take at least 4,000 steps while trying an activity I haven't done before. Note: Some new activities, such as swimming or yoga, might not increase your step count. If you try one of these activities, record the amount of time you spent engaged in that activity instead.

Background:

It is true what they say: variety is the spice of life. It is also a key component of a successful physical activity program. Here are three key reasons to mix up your regular workouts and add variety to your routine:

First, variety helps you to achieve all of the benefits of physical activity. There are three different components of fitness: cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility. Many people make the mistake of challenging themselves in just one or two areas. In order to get the most out of your fitness routine, you should challenge yourself to engage in all three components. If you have spent the last 6 weeks walking, consider adding a strength training or yoga class.

Second, variety helps you to avoid an injury. Overuse injuries are the most common among new exercisers. Overuse injuries are exactly what they sound like – injuries that result from using something (e.g. a muscle or tendon) too much. Adding various activities to your routine will vary the muscles and the way they are used and help you to avoid these types of injuries.

Finally, variety helps to keep things fun. Physical activity needs to be enjoyable for you to continue to be engaged. After several months of doing the same thing, you start to lose the excitement you had when you began the activity; over time you lose your motivation to continue and you revert back to your sedentary habits. Adding new activities to your routine will help you to stay challenged—and engaged—in your routine and it will provide much needed motivation to you to keep it up! After all, what good is an exercise program if you don't do it?

As an added benefit, variety can also help you to break through weight loss plateaus and continue moving toward your healthy weight goal. Maintaining a healthy weight is important to protect yourself from cancer, other diseases and feel good. The AICR expert panel of scientists concluded that excess body fat is a primary cause of cancer, second only to smoking. Striving toward your ultimate activity challenge of being moderately active for 60 minutes or vigorously active for 30 minutes daily will help you continue to lose weight, shrink your waistline and look and feel healthier.

Knowledge is Power! Did You Know?

That too much body fat can trigger inflammation, a risk factor for cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. Physical activity reduces inflammation and burns extra calories stored as fat.

Steps/Tips:

  • Try a class. There are lots of fun ways to exercise and plenty of motivating instructors to lead you. Check out the group exercise schedule at your health club and give a new class (or two!) a try. If you don't belong to a health club, check your local community center, church, or school—many offer various fitness classes.
  • Be a kid again. Remember what you used to love to do as a kid? Try it out again! Chances are it will be just as much fun as you remember.
  • Ask a friend. Friends are always a great source of information. Find out what your neighbors or colleagues do to keep active and ask if you can join them during their next workout.
  • Check your local listings. You can find several different workouts on TV (either live or on demand) or you can rent or check out from the library workout videos.
  • Look for a group. Communities are filled with activity groups: walking, biking, hiking, rowing groups just to name a few. Check your local community boards, Internet sites, or local paper to find one you might like to try.
  • Start with the basics. Trying a new activity means learning new skills. Be sure to take the time to learn the basics of whatever new activity you choose before you push yourself too hard.
  • Set your timer at work for mini breaks every 50 minutes or so. Stretch using your resistance band (see video link below) and do strength exercises with 2-5 pound hand weights. These also can be done during long phone conversations. Run office errands using the stairs and suggest "walking meetings" for variety.
  • Don't be shy. It can be intimidating to try something new, but don't let that stop you. Ask for help if you have a question.
  • Write it down. Keeping track of what you did and didn't like about the new workout you tried will help you to make good choices in the future. Record your minutes and/or steps!
  • Have fun. Physical activity should be fun. Choose activities you enjoy. The more you like what you are doing, the more you'll keep doing it.

Further Information:

Published on June 12, 2012

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