For some people, the word “exercise” might be synonymous with “torture.” Unfortunately, most adults live a fairly sedentary lifestyle, but exercise is necessary for good physical health. The good news is that exercise can also be fun and the benefits go beyond physical. A regular exercise routine will improve your mental and emotional health, particularly if you enjoy it. The following tips will help you keep fit while having fun.
Think outside the gym
If you don’t enjoy sweating away the minutes on an elliptical trainer, stationary bike, or treadmill, there are many other ways to stay active. Think of activities you enjoy, and find ways to make them physically challenging. My husband enjoys team sports, so he plays basketball weekly. Many community recreation centers have adult leagues for sports like basketball, soccer, and softball. If you love to dance, take some lessons or try a dance-based fitness class. Hiking, skiing, roller-blading, kayaking, bicycling, gardening, and yard work all burn calories.
Mix it up
When your current workout routine gets old, it’s time to add something new. If you live in a place where weather changes with the seasons, this is easy. When it’s rainy and wet, I don’t go for long bike rides or runs, as often. Instead, I head to the pool for some laps, try a new fitness video, or set up my own circuit training. Mixing up workouts will prevent you from getting overuse injuries, requires your body to adapt and become stronger, and keeps your mind involved, as learning new things demands focus.
Grab a friend
Exercising with a friend or group can be fun and motivating. A friend can help you keep moving when you may feel like quitting. Having someone to talk with on a long run helps the miles fly by. Some exercises, like weight lifting, are safer with a partner to spot you. Group fitness classes are dynamic and different every time, depending on the instructor and the people attending.
Add in music
A few favorite tunes can keep you moving when fatigue sets in. Well-known running coach Jack Daniels asserts that songs with 180 beats per minute (bpm) provide the optimum cadence for running efficiently. Upbeat music can also help you rest less during weight lifting. I often listen to podcasts as I use the elliptical trainer. Keeping my mind busy helps the time pass more quickly.
Sometimes, exercising for the sake of exercising isn’t enough. Where do you want your exercise to lead? Do you want to lose weight, fit into your college jeans, or complete your first 5K or marathon? Having a goal can help you keep focused, and reaching your goal will help you feel confident and accomplished.
If you’ve been pushing too hard, your body will let you know. When physical and mental fatigue sets in, it’s time to step back and relax. Try some less demanding exercise for a week or two, like walking the dog, bike riding with kids, relaxing yoga, or nothing at all. Take some time to think about your goals, then start again when you feel rested.
A good exercise regimen should include elements of cardiovascular training, strength training, and flexibility. It should also be fun! Take a look at your current fitness plan and decide if you need to add in a little more enjoyment. You’ll be glad you did.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.