You have to rethink your routine every 4 to 6 weeks. We spoke to a range of fitness experts—from top-level trainers at national gym chains to trainers with professional athletes and celebrities for clients, and they all said getting variety in the types of cardio and resistance moves you do and how you do them ensures that your workouts are really doing your body good. Even minor tweaks, like doing squats or pushups for a set period of time instead of number of reps, keep your muscles guessing and working in new ways, which improves strength, says Ingrid Nelson, a personal trainer in Washington, D.C., and founder of the ING Group personal training. Variety could also help you do up to 44 percent more reps. Here's why that is, plus 4 more reasons to get creative with your workouts.

You'll Get Better Results

Mixing it up can help you beat that why-isn't-the-scale-moving-anymore frustration or help prevent it from happening at all. In a small study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that participants who followed a varied workout routine (including resistance training, sprint intervals, stretching/yoga/Pilates and endurance exercise) and ate whey protein lost more weight, lost more fat mass, and gained more lean body mass than those who combined the protein with resistance-only strength training or only consumed the protein.

It'll Help Lower Your Risk of Injury

Doing the same motions over and over puts strain on the muscles and joints involved in that movement, part of the reason why the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons encourages cross training instead of focusing on a single activity. Women may be at greater risk of overuse injuries too. According to a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training, 30 percent of injuries sustained by college athletes (injury studies tend to focus on high school and collegiate athletes) are due to overuse, and nearly 62 percent of those overuse injuries occurred in female athletes (the researchers aren't sure why women are at greater risk than men). The most common overuse injuries: general stress, inflammation and tendonitis.

Moving your body in different directions and planes of motion can also prevent injuries outside the gym. "If you're only doing cardio in a forward motion, like on a treadmill or elliptical, it can become harder for you to move sideways," says Susan Stanley, an Equinox trainer in New York. "You're more likely to injure yourself doing something as simple as loading your trunk when you go on vacation."

More Variety Means More Follow-through

"Boredom kills more fitness plans than anything else," says Gunnar Peterson, CSCS, a personal trainer in Beverly Hills. Based on his 20-plus years of experience, he says most people fall off the wellness wagon once workouts start to feel predictable or monotonous. "When your mind isn't engaged and your body isn't challenged, that's when you start cutting workouts short or skipping them entirely."

Research backs up the idea that variety makes you more interested in exercise. When participants in a 2013 study in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research were given the option of doing resistance training or sitting in a room with either 10 or 2 kinds of equipment, those with more options spent 18 percent more time exercising, did nearly 44 percent more reps and reported more enjoyment than those with fewer options. And even though they worked out longer and harder, the higher variety group reported nearly the same level of exertion as those who broke less of a sweat.

A Few Workouts to Mix Into Your Routine

The 10-Minute Workout That Wakes You Up Better Than Coffee

3 Exercises to Master for Tank Top Ready Arms

The 4 Best Moves For Your Core That Aren't Crunches


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