The benefits of adding cross training to your exercise routine

What is cross training, and why is it important to your health?

Changing your exercise routine can help you improve your overall health and fitness.
Changing your exercise routine can help you improve your overall health and fitness.

Most people are aware of the many benefits of exercise, motivating them to keep exercise as routine. Cross training , the practice of changing exercise or choosing different exercise activities, can be important to incorporate in an exercise routine because it requires your body to adapt to new routines and therefore encourages overall strength. An example of cross training is instead of running daily, biking occasionally helps build a different muscle skillset. Using a variety of types of exercise and a variety of routines for the same exercise is cross training. The American Council on Exercise defines cross training as an exercise regimen using several types of training to improve overall health and fitness.

Benefits of cross training

It keeps from getting boring

Most people like their routine once they have it established and do not like to vary from it. They set out on wheels, foot or skis for the same route they chose yesterday knowing exactly how long it will take them, the things they will see and how they will feel afterward. Doing this same routine day in and day out without variation gets tedious and boring. This boredom can lead to finding excuses not to exercise. Cross training is used to add variation to any exercise routine. Different exercise styles offer different feelings of exertion and satisfaction, helping keep you motivated to continue exercising. By cross training and changing the routine, it is more interesting to see new routes, and gives a different feeling by increasing motivation to continue a regular exercise program.

Muscles become fitter if exercise is varied

Exercise causes the body to work hard by increasing the demands to breathe harder, increase blood flow and increase muscle loads. In a sense, exercise stresses the body in a positive way. This stress requires the body to adapt, making these demands easier over time. If the frequency, intensity, time and type (F.I.T.T. principle) of exercise is the same every day, the body gets very good at it and it has no reason to continue to become more efficient or fitter. On the other hand, if the frequency, intensity, time or type of exercise changes regularly the body must continually make advancements and increase fitness.

Increased metabolism

Stagnant exercise routines cause stagnant metabolism. Caloric expenditure will not increase if the body has already become used to the energy and task requirement. As mentioned above, cross training changes exercise systems requiring more energy usage thus increasing metabolism.

Decreased injury

Anytime one type exercise is repeated over a long period, the possibility of injury increases especially when weight bearing or high impact exercise is concerned. Repeated similar exercise over time puts muscles, joints and bones under stress. If there is no change or chance to rest, there is a higher risk of sprains, strains or worse.

Exercise is important for everyone’s wellbeing and it is much easier to get moving when changing a route or exercise routine, asking, “what should I do today?” Choosing different exercise each day by cross training keeps boredom away, increases metabolism, decreases the risk of overuse injury and muscles get fitter faster by consistently making the body adapt to fluctuating exercise demands.

Michigan State University Extension has many programs to help individuals toward positive behavior change. 

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