Research shows that breaking out of your cardio comfort zone with new fitness classes has major perks on workout motivation

By Kylie Gilbert
Corbis Images

Showing up for a new workout class for the first time can be a pretty scary endeavor. What am I supposed to wear? Will I know how to use the equipment? Will I look like a fool? are just a few of the many questions that run through the mind after signing up. And with all that stress, it can become all too easy to stick with what we know.

But a new study published in Psychology & Health shows that ditching our go-to workout for an unfamiliar sweat sesh might actually make us enjoy the activity more, and make us more likely to hit the gym (or studio) in the future too. (More on that here: Is It Bad to Do the Same Workout Every Day?)

In the study, women who weren't super active completed either a 30-minute bout of treadmill time or a fun, unfamiliar aerobic exercise-like hula-hooping, which raises your heart rate and burns calories at a rate similar to other moderate intensity exercise activities. The researchers found that compared to those who completed the brisk walk, the hula-hoopers reported more pleasure and fewer negative feelings, and they also expressed more interest in making sweat a habit in the month to come. (It should be noted that the researchers didn't follow up on whether women with higher motivation following the workout actually exercised more in the future, but that is something they hope to test in the future.)

While the women studied weren't exercising regularly, based on past research, lead study author Courtney Stevens predicts that women who do exercise regularly-and find themselves doing the same workout again and again-would reap the same benefits from trying a new workout.

While that's not to say you can't stick with spinning, barre, running, or whatever workout you truly enjoy, "if you find yourself in a rut, you might find that you feel better and have more motivation to exercise again in the near future if you change things up and try something new," Stevens says. (You can mix it up with these 5 Playful Ways to Escape Your Workout "Routines".)

At the end of the day, research consistently shows that women who feel better during exercise are more likely to maintain a fit routine, so ultimately it's important to find out what works for you, what feels good, and notice when maybe you aren't getting the same benefits from your workout that you used to anymore, she adds.

So if you've been holding back on booking that boxing class, rock climbing workout, or any other new-to-you workout, consider this your kick in the butt.


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