10 Scientific Tips For Sticking To Your Workout Routine

From choosing a fitter buddy to bringing your dog to work, here’s what recent research has to say about actually getting yourself to exercise. posted on

1. Work out with someone fitter than you.

In a 2012 study, stationary bikers were told they were “competing” against another biker who had previously biked for longer than they had, and whom they could see via video chat. Actually, the “chat” was just video footage on a loop, but the bikers who were told they were competing still biked for 90% longer than they had when no competition was involved. Takeaway: working out with someone more athletic, even via Skype, might make you push yourself more.

2. Try exercising outside.

One study found that people who exercised outside were more likely to say they planned to do the same activity again than those who worked out indoors. The study didn’t follow up to see if people actually followed through on their intentions, but exercising outside outside has other benefits too — it boosts energy and relieves depression better than working out in the gym.

3. Use exercise video games as a gateway drug.

Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

A review of the literature on “exergames” like Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Fit found that they weren’t as good as real-life exercise. But the author of the review said the games could help sedentary people get moving: “For those not engaging in real-life exercise, this may be a good step toward this.”

4. Thirty minutes might be just as good as an hour.

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A group of moderately overweight Danish men who exercised for 30 minutes a day for three months in a recent study actually lost more weight than a group who worked out for 60 minutes. Of course, not everyone exercises for weight loss, but it’s worth noting that just a half hour can have an effect on your body. And the study authors speculate that one reason the 30-minute timeframe was effective was that it motivated the men to move around more throughout the day.

5. Need motivation? Think how much smarter exercise will make you.

Studies have shown that exercise helps people do better on cognitive tests, can improve memory, and protects the brain from age-related decline. So if you go for a run, you might do better at your job and Words With Friends, too.

6. Or look forward to better sex.

Other research shows that exercise can improve erectile function. And some women actually have orgasms from exercise.

7. Take your dog to work.

A study on employees who took their dogs to work found that one of the many benefits was that employees got exercise on their breaks by taking the dogs for walks. The dogs also significantly reduced employees’ stress, and study authors “observed unique dog-related communication in the workplace that may contribute to employee performance and satisfaction.”

8. You don’t have to lift huge weights.

Last year, a group of researchers concluded that lifting lighter weights with many repetitions could be just as effective at building muscle as lifting heavy weights with fewer reps. So don’t worry if you can’t bench press a million pounds — just do a few more lifts.

9. Keep your hands cold.

Maridav / Via shutterstock.com

This is a weird one, but a device that kept the palms of the hands cold helped a group of women in one study feel more comfortable exercising and thus stick with an exercise program longer. The study authors say keeping a cold water bottle in your hand could have the same effect, helping you feel less hot, sweaty, and tired.

10. Drink red wine!

Researchers found that resveratrol, found in fruit, nuts, and red wine, improved exercisers’ strength and performance. Some caveats: the exercisers were rats, and the doses of resveratrol they got were probably higher than you’d get just from drinking. But if you need an excuse to enjoy a glass of wine as part of your workout program, here it is.

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