All too often people want to do only one type of exercise. Runners increase their running mileage. Cyclists bike outside and in spin class. Yoga enthusiasts practice different types of yoga. Body builders focus on strength training. And group exercise fans are loyal to their favorite instructor.
While we know that the principle of specificity states that to improve at a sport we need to do more of that specific sport, there are three major benefits to changing up an exercise routine with cross-training.
- Decreased risk of injury from repetitive motions done over and over, day after day, week after week, month after month and sometimes year after year. Repetitive motion injuries make up over 50% of the exercise-related injuries seen by doctors. Using the same muscles in the same type of exercise day after day results in microscopic tissue tears, inflammation and pain that can prevent people from participating in their favorite (and often only) form of exercise.
- Improved overall fitness. The Physical Activity Guidelines recommend a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities each week to promote overall health and fitness. The American College of Sports Medicine encourages stretching a minimum of two times per week to improve sports performance as well as reduce risk of injury. Including all three types of exercise into a weekly program builds a strong fitness foundation.
- The fun factor! Doing the same type of exercise day after day becomes mentally and emotionally monotonous. Challenge your clients to try a new type of exercise just for fun to give their body and mind a welcome break.
Runners: Cycling or swimming to reduce wear on tired legs while maintaining aerobic endurance, resistance training to increase muscle strength, and yoga for increased flexibility. Try ballroom dancing or tennis just for fun.
Cyclists: Running or group aerobic classes to increase aerobic endurance, karate for muscle strength, and tai chi for balance and flexibility. Play Frisbee or volleyball just for fun.
Weight lifters: Get out of the gym and cycle or run outside to improve cardiovascular fitness, and take a Pilates class to improve flexibility and core strength. Participate in a fun obstacle run such as the Mudathlon for a completely new experience.
Zumba or aerobic class enthusiasts: Take exercise outside with hiking or a group outdoor circuit training class, or work with a personal trainer to develop a strength-training program. Sign up for a local 5K with friends and family for fun and fitness.