Why Your Workout Routine May Not Be Working for You


You’ve spent weeks diligently sticking to your new workout routine but have yet to see any results. You’re almost ready to give up, thinking what’s the point if you don’t see results? You’re not alone — you may be what fitness scientists call exercise “nonresponders.”

A new study from Queen’s University in Canada found that each exercise routine does not work the same for everyone; rather, some people may respond positively to one form of exercise while others don’t respond at all.

Students performing interval training. Credit: US Air Force/Wikimedia Commons

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to exercise,” Brendon Gurd, an associate professor of Kinesiology at Queen’s University who oversaw the study, told the New York Times. “But it does seem as if there is some size that fits everyone.”

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, asked 21 adults to either do endurance training or interval training. After three months of rest between workout periods, they were asked to switch up their exercise routine.

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Some of the volunteers improved by the end of the study, while others saw no change and a few were actually worse off. The researchers underlined that each participant responded to at least one of the workouts, whether it was endurance or interval training.

The researchers found that age, sex and ethnicity did not play a role in the results. However, the study discovered genetics were a factor — non-response to endurance training ran in families. But the results do not mean you should give up on exercise just because you may be a nonresponder to one type of exercise.

“Not that you shouldn’t bother exercising because exercise might not help you,” Dr. Gurd told the New York Times. “It does help everyone, once you find your own best exercise.”

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To test if you’re a nonresponder to a certain kind of exercise, Dr. Gurd suggests briskly walking up several flights of stairs or quickly stepping on and off a box three to four times. Then, check your pulse — this becomes your baseline. Once you establish your fitness baseline you can start your desired workout regime, whether it’s jogging, interval training or swimming.

After about a month of sticking to that form of exercise, repeat the stair or step test. If your workout routine is working, the test should feel easier and your heart rate should be slower. If not, you may be a nonresponder to your current workout regime. In that case, switch up your workout. Finding the right exercise routine for you might be just a matter of trial and error.