A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Cross-training: Change-up your workouts with variety


Cross-training should combine cardio, strength and stretching to be the most effective.

“You should cross-train to prevent injuries.”

If you’ve heard this advice and wondered what it means for the average person trying to become more physically fit, read on.

Cardio, stretching and strength

“I recommend getting a good deal of variety in your exercise routine, including cardio, stretching and strength training,” said Steve Hoffmeister, a Marshfield Clinic physical therapist.

A balanced exercise program might look like this:

  • 20-30 minutes of cardio exercise three to five times per week
  • 30-45 minutes of strength training two to three times per week
  • 20-30 minutes of stretching two to three times per week

Try biking, swimming, yoga, exercise videos and group fitness classes to get a good balance of the three types of exercise.

“This is just a general guideline,” Hoffmeister said. “If you can’t do a variety of exercise each week, do what you can. Some people think if they can’t cross-train the way it’s recommended they shouldn’t try it at all, and that’s not true. Anything is better than nothing.”

Injury prevention and better function

“As we get older, our muscles, ligaments and tendons don’t tolerate repetitive use very well,” Hoffmeister said. “That’s why avid walkers may develop Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and joint inflammation.”

Doing the same activities every day can cause certain muscles to become very strong while others get ignored.

Strengthening muscles throughout your body and doing a variety of movements prevent muscle imbalances and overuse injuries.

Cross-training also makes functional movements like bending and twisting easier by improving joint flexibility and strength. You’ll be able to golf, garden and do other recreational and household activities more easily and without pain.

Woman at a local gym using a medicine ball for ab workouts

Use community resources

Fitness classes are a great way to try different types of exercises. Gyms, community centers, recreation departments and senior centers usually offer a variety of aerobic and strength training classes.

If group workouts aren’t your thing, buy a few sessions with a personal trainer to learn about different types of physical activity or ask about free fitness consultations at your gym.

Related Shine365 stories:

Build bones with simple weight-bearing exercise 

Prep your body for exercise with dynamic warm-ups

8 great aerobic exercises to try at home

Is it possible to over-exercise?

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