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An argument for mixing up your exercise routine

August 24, 2009 | 12:35 pm

Most people who exercise have a routine, such as hitting the gym solo in the morning, jogging with friends on the weekend, or bicycling with the family a couple of times a week.

I6o9b8kf But it might be worth it to get out of that rut once in a while, since other people and your surroundings may play a key role in the intensity, frequency and length of your workout.

A new study in the September issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise looked at social and environmental influences on workouts. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute examined data from the American Time Use Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau from 2003-06, concentrating on 7,700 men and women who reported exercising at least one time on the previous day. Walking was the most popular activity, followed by cardiovascular equipment, strength training, water sports, and running. The majority of the activity (about 70%) was in the moderate range, and about 30% was vigorous.

More sports and exercise in the vigorous range were done alone than with family members, friends or co-workers. One reason for that, researchers believe, is that activities involving speed and endurance are easier done alone than with other people. More bouts of sports or exercise done at home or at a gym were vigorous, compared with exercise done outdoors -- that may be because of the availability of equipment.

However, exercising solo did have its downside. People worked out for shorter periods when alone than with others, perhaps because exercising with other people not only provides social support, but is more enjoyable or entertaining than exercising alone. Moderate and vigorous bouts of exercise lasted longer when they took place outside rather than inside.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Ed Stauss