For many people, exercising is more than a physical challenge—it can be emotionally and mentally discouraging. Putting in the right amount of time, energy, and resources should be a sure-fire formula for fitness success. Unfortunately, not everyone who does this sees results, and many discover that attempts at physical fitness may end in disappointment as they watch others (perhaps even those that didn’t put in as much effort and dedication) easily meet their health goals.

The science behind why certain people do or do not respond to exercise is unclear. However, research is beginning to offer more hope that just about anyone can find an exercise program that gives them results. In a recent study involving twins, researchers observed that not everyone can benefit from the same type of exercise—even if their share identical genes. This is why, when people are involved in group classes or fitness clubs, not everyone responds to the program the same exact way. Despite this reality, it does not simply mean that there are some people who will never be able to improve their physical strength and stamina; the study found that “low-responders” to one type of activity will almost always respond well to a different kind of exercise program. Therefore, to achieve the best fitness results, it is just as important to focus on variety and persistence when one thing isn’t working out.

In the study, published in the Journal of Physiology, both fraternal and identical twins performed resistance and endurance training for three months at a time, each separated by a three-month “wash out” period of no exercise. Researchers assessed training responses in strength and fitness outcomes, as well as genetic and environmental factors, for each exercise type. Findings clearly revealed that individual responsiveness to certain exercise modalities varied, but those that did not respond well to one modality responded very well to a different type. Most astoundingly, genes did not play a significant role when it came to determining which fitness program would be best for an individual. This goes against previous assumptions from prior data.

Even more interesting, the benefits that study participants gained from different types of exercise were broad. If someone did not gain endurance from aerobic exercise, they might be able to when switching to weight training, even though those exercises specifically target muscle strength.

Not only is this encouraging news for those who struggle with physical health and exercise, but it can revolutionize the way people think about and approach their own wellness. Those with family members that experience poor health or exercise ability need not assume they’ll never be able to reach fitness goals. Lifestyle factors, such as diet, may play a bigger role—which means people have more control over their health than they may have ever imagined. However, the study did not delve into which factors may be influencing fitness outcomes.

Engage And Encourage Employees With Variety

With this in mind, wellness programs that facilitate and reward different fitness routines are extremely important. Not only do they keep people interested with new activities and cover a greater amount of individual preferences, but they can help workers find the most effective exercises and habits that work for them. This can lead to unexpected breakthroughs that also boost mental and emotional health and keep program engagement high. For those individuals that are the least physically active, they may finally be inspired once they find the right fitness routine that gives them desired results.

By using a continuous wellness program that focuses on a different health topic each month, for example, workers will be encouraged to try new activities and techniques. Incentivizing different types of fitness goals or program offerings can get people out of their comfort zone and help those that may have been struggling with getting results to discover a more effective activity.

This approach need not be limited to physical exercise. People respond differently to all kinds of wellness-related practices, such as diets and eating habits, mental health practices, and stress relief techniques. By offering a variety of content and resources, while also encouraging employees to try new tools or approaches, people will be able to customize and optimize a wellness program to meet their specific needs.

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