Wondering if your exercise routine (you have a exercise routine, right?) is paying the dividends you expect from it? Check what these studies have found and how you can improve your health and fitness.

Prime Time for Exercise

Are your binge-watching marathons to blame for your net flab gains? Watching less TV has a double benefit: you exercise more and also reduce your unhealthy sedentary time, slashing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Australian scientists found that when inactive people adopted an exercise routine that took two-and-a-half to five hours a week, they ended up watching about 50 fewer minutes of TV a day. Any reduction in viewing time is a positive: watching more than two hours of television a day has been shown in other research to increase heart disease risk by 125%. Here’s another great way to downgrade the danger of being a couch potato: during the commercials, do 30 seconds each of jumping jacks, mountain climbers and skater hops, without resting between moves.

Take Time Off From Intervals

Go ahead and skip this week’s sprints. Doing high-intensity intervals every other week is just as beneficial as doing them weekly. That’s the conclusion of researchers in Norway who worked with soccer players in the six-week off-season. Players who completed five fourminute rounds at 87 to 97% of their max heart rate every seven days registered VO2 maxes similar to those of players who did the same every 14 days. “High-intensity intervals done more than once a week can fry you physically,” says Dan John, a US trainer. “That bogs down other workouts, which trumps any training advantage.”

Push Your Limits

A beginner’s mentality is a good thing, even when you’re a master. Your favourite sport may not provide as good a workout as it did when you were learning it. Researchers in the UK found that skilled surfers were able to maintain lower intensity levels while riding than novice surfers did. “As you improve, you perform the task more efficiently,” says study author Dr Matthew Barlow. To make sure your workouts consistently deliver results, keep adding to the challenge as your skillset broadens. Tackle new moves, and wear a heart rate monitor soyou can track your intensity level.

Butt Pain

When the butt muscles on the back of your hips tighten up, they pinch your sciatic nerve, causing a literal pain in your ass. It’s called piriformis syndrome, and it can make running difficult. Runners and cyclists are at especially high risk because the focus on forward motion tends to weaken hip muscles. The Solution Loosen up: before your run, foam-roll your muscles and then relax them with a yoga pigeon pose, says Men’s Health advisor Dr Jordan Metzl.