Despite that nearly three-quarters of Americans feel that being in shape and looking attractive is very important to them, data shows that the majority of us aren’t making physical activity a priority. In fact, new reports from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that only 23.5 percent of Americans aged 18 and over meet the federal guidelines for both muscle-strengthening and aerobic activities. What’s more, one 2010 study estimated that one in five people may be considered physically inactive. Leading a sedentary lifestyle can significantly increase the risk of both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, among other health concerns.
Although there are a lot of good reasons to work out, the reasons not to can often be just as compelling. We work longer hours, spend more time in front of screens, and frequently feel stressed and exhausted. It’s tough to even make time to exercise–and if you actually have time to spare, it can be a real challenge to drum up the motivation necessary to spend an hour on the treadmill. And if you truly despise exercise, you won’t have much incentive to give up your precious leisure time to sweat it out at the gym.
But the truth is that you might not actually hate exercise; you might just dislike certain types of exercise. Treating physical fitness like a one-size-fits-all endeavor isn’t effective for most people. If you feel limited by your workout routine, chances are that you aren’t going to enjoy it much. Finding an activity you truly enjoy can take the “work” out of your workout and allow you to look forward to your fitness regime (for once). Those who have dismissed the idea of exercise in the past might want to consider something a bit more off the beaten path instead. Here are three exercise ideas to try that could convince you that you like working out after all.
Take Up a New Hobby
Although some people love to use the elliptical or the rowing machine, it can definitely become a little mundane after a while. But it’s likely that your local fitness center or recreational facility offers a lot more than weight machines and stair climbers. Put that gym pass to good use and sign up for Ballet classes, kickboxing, Zumba, or yoga. All three of these classes will provide an amazing workout, but the focus isn’t really on how many calories you burn or how many miles you run. Instead, you can zero in on acquiring new skills, dancing your heart out, or finding your inner peace. That could be the key to learning how to enjoy working out: it just needs to have another purpose.
In the same vein, you could do some laps in the pool, learn how to ice skate, practice your tennis swing, shoot some hoops on the court, sign up for self-defense classes, or learn salsa dance at a nearby studio. All of these activities can help you lose weight or tone muscle, but those benefits are more like an added bonus. Ultimately, you’ll want to continue an exercise routine if it’s something you like doing. If you can find an activity that somehow sparks your sense of creativity, provides a great emotional outlet, or simply resonates with how you like to move, you’ll be motivated to make it part of your schedule in the long term.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. Therefore, it’s all too easy to forget about the restorative benefits nature can provide. Studies have found that spending time outside can increase your energy, relieve stress and anxiety, ease depression, and even boost your short-term memory. Plus, taking in the beautiful landscape is a whole lot more interesting than staring at the wall or the television screen.
Whether you live in Suburbia or the Big City, there are probably a lot of outdoor spaces for you to enjoy. Local parks are an excellent resource for hiking and biking trails. If you don’t own a bike yourself, there may be bicycle rental services in your area that can allow you to explore on two wheels. If it’s cold and snowy, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing can be a great way to take in the chilly sights and work up a sweat at the same time. When it’s warm, you can take a jog around the park or rent a kayak or canoe and row your way around the bay. If you make it a habit to document the amazing nature you encounter during your workouts (either through photographs or in a journal), you’ll have even more to look forward to every time you venture outside.
Sneak in Some Activity
Our culture is obsessed with the idea of being busy, which makes for a convenient excuse to skip the gym on a daily basis. But even if you really don’t have time for a conventional workout, that doesn’t mean you can’t get active. Every little bit of physical activity will help you, especially considering that the average person sits for 12 hours per day. When you’re stuck working late or have too much to do at home to devote an hour or so to exercise, there are ways to sneak in some fitness.
If you live or work in a building with an elevator, choose to take the stairs instead. For those who have a short commute to work or plan to hit up a neighborhood spot for dinner, try walking or biking to nearby destinations instead of driving. Prioritize your pet’s physical activity by taking him or her for a long walk before dinner every evening. And if you have a lot of chores to catch up on the weekend, blast some music and have a cleaning dance party. There are even exercises you can do right at your desk to get the blood pumping. If nothing else, start each day off with five to ten minutes of stretching and meditation. You’ll be surprised how much more energized you feel throughout the day.
It’s not always easy to break your sedentary habits, particularly if you haven’t found a workout routine you really enjoy. But if you remember these tips and keep an open mind, you may just find an activity that piques your interest and encourages you to get active on a regular basis.