Two men hike outside.
Take it in stride—if you push yourself too hard in the beginning, it’s not likely you’ll sustain a healthy exercise routine. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Continually progressing keeps exercise interesting and further increases your fitness level.

Here are 5 fun ideas to keep challenging yourself.

1. Identify an area of weakness.

For example, perhaps a muscle group you want to tone or a fitness skill you’d like to have. You might assess your level of each of the key components of fitness—cardio endurance, muscle strength, flexibility, balance and agility, and then take steps to improve the area that you ranked last.

2. Take an activity you love to a new level.


Our Take

To encourage us to make exercise a priority, Thomas Boyden, MD, a Spectrum Health Medical Group preventive cardiologist, details the many ways physical activity can make our lives better.

His top 10 reasons to exercise can provide a little motivational boost to put down the smartphone and pick up the pace.

Routine exercise:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Helps control cholesterol
  • Builds bone strength
  • Helps prevent dementia
  • Fights depression, stress and anxiety
  • Improves balance
  • Reduces risk for heart attack and stroke
  • Aids weight control
  • Helps you sleep better

Exercise does not have to mean running a marathon, Dr. Boyden said. But it should involve activity more vigorous than a leisurely stroll.

If you’re a runner, consider training for a half-marathon or triathlon. Or join an adult team or group. USA Cycling (, for one, has clubs across the country that organize group rides, where you can explore scenic routes, improve skills and make new friends who share your passion.

3. Master a new activity.

If you’re an avid skier, take up tennis. If you love cycling, consider hiking. If you have a passion for running, dive into swimming.

4. Exercise for the greater good.

Sign up for a fitness event that raises money for a worthwhile cause and whose scope will challenge you. For instance, if you’re used to 5K runs, look for a 10K.

5. Think outside the box.

Finally, if you want to really think outside the box, investigate extreme sports events that will challenge you on an entirely different level and be fun at the same time. Options run the gamut from Tough Mudder (, miles-long obstacle courses offered at venues across the country, to destination events like marathon weekend at Disney World in Florida. You might even consider creating your own challenge and asking friends and family to join you in it.