Mix and Match for a Better Body

If you're like many, you've found the one activity you love to do. And you do it—over and over again. That's great, especially when you're just trying to get into the habit. But once you're exercising regularly, adding variety to your routine can take you to the next level.

"When you do just one thing, you're only training the muscles you need for that particular activity," says Janet Alexander, an exercise specialist in Encinitas, CA. "That can leave you very strong in some areas, but pretty weak in others, leading to muscle imbalances and overuse injuries from performing the same motions day in and day out." And as you already know, the more muscles you use, the more calories you burn, and the slimmer and fitter you'll feel. "Plus, cross-training keeps you from getting bored!" she adds.

You should always aim for a balance of aerobic activity and strength training to keep your heart fit, your muscles toned, and your bones strong. "Strength training twice a week is essential," says Alexander. "It's the only thing that keeps your muscles strong enough to do the activities you love. And strength training keeps your metabolism high, so you avoid gaining excess body fat as you get older."

Otherwise, try to vary your aerobic workouts so that you're not doing the same activity every day. Below are some ideas to help you spice up your routine.

Quick Tip
If your workout's not working, try a new activity to boost calorie burn. If your primary exercise is:

Jogging/Running
Try Yoga
Keeps muscles and joints strong and flexible

Golf or Tennis
Try Swimming
Moves joints through a full rotation and stretches them

Cycling/Spinning Classes
Try African or Jazz Dance
Impact is good for your bones and improves posture

Walking
Try Swimming
Stretches you and works your upper body

Aerobics Class (e.g., dance, step, kickboxing)
Try Biking on Trails
Low impact is easier on joints. Adding hills works your upper body and improves balance.

Swimming/Water Aerobics
Try Walking
Especially on hills Weight-bearing exercise adds impact to build bones and improves lower body strength.

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