Exercise variety increases exercise adherence

Despite the known benefits of exercise, less than 60% of adults participate in regular physical activity.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in the United States, at least 365,000 “preventable” deaths per year, second only to deaths caused by smoking, are the result of poor diet and lack of physical activity. Most people know the health risks of not getting enough exercise, but they don’t want or can’t exercise. 

Many resources are utilized to find the “best” exercise programs, however more research is needed to find exercise programs that can increase participation and enjoyment.  If you don’t exercise at all, finding an exercise routine that you can stick to is much more important than finding the hardest or the program promising the fastest results.

In a recent published report, The study had two groups:

Group A: A high-variety weight training exercise equipment room (10 choices)

Group B: A low-variety weight training exercise equipment room (2 choices)

Both groups were properly trained by a personal trainer. The participants were put in a room for 20 minutes that had either many exercise equipment options or just two.  The same groups also had access to low-level activities, like puzzles, coloring, reading magazines and Sudoku among others.  The researches examined if people had access to more exercise options would they work out more and/or harder?

The study found that Group A significantly increased repetitions performed (126 vs. 88), the amount of time exercising (14 vs. 12 minutes) and liking (8 vs. 7 outta 10) during the high variety condition relative to the low variety condition.

An important finding was that the rate of perceived exertion or how hard each person worked did not change between groups. Although Group A did more exercising than Group B they did not feel like they did. Because having more exercise options was enjoyable they put in more effort without even realizing it. 

The researchers also point out another great benefit of adding variety to your exercise program. “When the same activities are performed chronically, there is the risk of injury from overuse and repetitive motion. Conversely, by performing a variety of new activities the body is challenged in new ways”.  Not only can adding more exercise options keep you coming back, but it can also help burn more fat and keep you injury free.


1. Juvancic-Heltzel, JA, Glickman, EL, and Barkley, JE. The effect of variety on physical activity: A cross-sectional study. J Strength Cond Res 27

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