The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Kick Exercise Boredom Right Out!

Written by
Karyn Hughes, MEd
Posted in
Move more

Monday, Jan 21, 2013

Ever heard of the exercise excuse “oh I get so bored?” You  may have even felt it from time to time yourself. Actually, this reason is a well-documented and legitimate reason people quit exercising.  It is a “barrier to exercise” that science has identified as a primary reason people give for not exercising along with others like “I don’t have time,” “I’m too tired,” and “I don’t know how to get started.”  And this problem is apparent across all ages. So if we know boredom is a major reason given for giving up on exercise what can we do to increase adherence (sticking with it) and keep more people engaged and interested in exercise activity?

Variety is the answer!  Yes, it is that simple. Regarding eating and consumer spending, it has been proven over and over that increasing the variety of available food and purchasing options absolutely increases eating and consumer spending respectively. But there have not been many exercise studies investigating this dimension.  One study that has looked at this relationship (1) assessed adults’ adherence to an 8-week aerobic exercise intervention and showed that participants who received varying exercise prescriptions every two weeks had a greater adherence than those who received an unchanging exercise prescription.

In a more recent study investigators focused on resistance training for three groups: children, young adults, and older adults (2). They were instructed that for two, 20 minutes they had the option to perform resistance training exercises and sedentary alternatives in any pattern and any amount.  One session had a high variety (HV) of equipment available for exercise and one a low variety (LV) of equipment. They could walk around, sit and rest on any piece of equipment or sit at the table and engage in age appropriate activities such as puzzles, cross-words, magazines, Sudoku, coloring and drawing. Participants were instructed on how to use all the equipment prior to the sessions and during the sessions the participant indicated which exercises they liked the best.  During the LV session the equipment provided to each participant reflected their favorite upper body and lower body exercise as there were only two pieces of equipment.  In the HV session 10 pieces of equipment were provided.

As you might guess, across all three age groups, the High Variety (HV) sessions increased exercise participation, and enjoyment of that exercise session without altering perceived exertion. All age groups spent considerably more time exercising than in sedentary behaviors.  So in other words, the research shows that variety works!

Putting Variety into Practice to “Kick Out Boredom” Since variety seems to be “the spice of life” and can be the “spice” need to keep us exercising, use the following ideas to add some variety of your own and abolish boredom once and for all. 

Cardiovascular Training

  1. Zumba™ Classes: Zumba™ classes let you dance your way to fitness. The Latin music is motivating and the energy from all the participants doing the “Salsa” and “Meringue” is scintillating. According to Wikipedia “Zumba involves dance and aerobic elements. Zumba's choreography incorporates hip-hop, soca, samba, salsa, merengue, mambo, martial arts, and some Bollywood and belly dance moves. Squats and lunges are also included.”
  2. Boot Camps: Boot Camps provide leadership, friendly peer competition, variety every session, and combine aerobic conditioning, anaerobic conditioning and resistance training into every session. Boot Camps have an element of Circuit Training to them and accommodate varying fitness levels in the same session.  They are very time efficient, utilize team building activities and provide socializing opportunities.
  3. Interval Training: Interval training is one of the most effective ways to increase cardiovascular power through the integration of short burst of higher intensity exercise segments followed by a recovery time. Intervals may be as short as ten seconds or as long as one to two minutes. Interval training can be performed both on any aerobic indoor machine such as a treadmill, elliptical, or stationary cycle or outside for walking, running, or cycling. Because of the high intensity, keep in mind that it should only be performed one to two times per week.
  4. Cross Training: If you work out at a health club, the variety of cardio equipment is vast.  Try using three different pieces of cardio equipment to make up your entire workout.  For example spend ten minutes on the treadmill, ten minutes on the elliptical, and ten minutes on the stationary cycle. Time will fly by and you’ll not get bored.
Resistance Training
  1. CrossFit: CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that is one of the hottest trends in exercise. Workouts are highly varied, high in intensity, and aim to be functional in nature so that fitness is improved and can therefore improve the ability to function/work in everyday life no matter what is being required of you (i.e. busy mom to police officer). Different movements such as sprinting, jumping, weightlifting, body weight exercises and different pieces of equipment such as dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells (just to name a few), are combined to give a high intense workout session typically lasting about 20 minutes and sometimes less. 
  2. Small Group Personal Training: Participating in Small Group Personal training brings all the pluses of personal, individualized fitness progressions, but the added benefits of socializing, friendly competition, and group support.  All with a much lower price tag than one on one personal training! (And if you are interested in learning how to lead a small group, click here to check out our 1/2 day Small Group Personal Training Course. The next one is right around the corner--February 14th, 2013!)
  3. Exercise Order: Changing up the order, sequence or direction of your exercises is sure to bring improved results and eliminate boredom.  Ever walked, cycled, or run your “route” in the opposite direction?  Wasn’t it amazing how different everything thing looked and how you noticed things you didn’t before going in the “other” direction.  Down slopes were now the up slopes, and vice-versa.  Changing the order in a resistance workout keeps you alert and is a way to provide variation which  means that the same muscles don't have to be last week in and week out and you will probably experience improved adaptations