Just as there are many different ways to eat healthy, there are also many different ways to exercise. But the workout that I think is great may be your idea of torture. If the choice is between torture and the couch, I know where you’re headed. That’s why it’s important to do what you enjoy—otherwise, you simply won’t stick to it.
With so many fitness trends abounding—from spin to Zumba to hot yoga—it can be hard to figure out where you fit in. To help you find an exercise program you’ll love, we’ve broken it down into a variety of different fitness options that are suited for all personalities, fitness levels and interests. Find the statement that you most agree with below, and consider the fitness options listed in that category.
1. “I would go to the gym, but it cuts into my social life too much.”
So make your fitness program social! Enlisting buddies in your fitness plans is one of the most surefire ways to stick to those plans. Decide together with your friends on an activity and a schedule when you all will meet and work out together. Or sign up together for an exercise class.
If you can’t arm-twist any pals to join your fitness campaign, then take a deep breath and sign up for a class on your own. Exercise classes are a great way to make new friends—you know at the very least you have a common interest in fitness. Find a smallish class with a friendly, inclusive instructor and before long you may feel a kinship with the whole class.
You can also plug into an online social network like Fitocracy, Daily Mile, or Map My Fitness for instruction, inspiration, online encouragement, and even some healthy competition. These sites help you map and track your routes and progress, stay motivated—and maybe even get addicted to—fitness. You can also compare your successes with the online community, competing against and/or cheering on your new fitness buddies.
2. “Exercise? Ugh. Let’s get this over with as quickly as possible.”
A traditional way to think about exercising is to say, “Okay, I’m gonna spend two hours at the gym” or “I’ll do 20 minutes of cardio.” But what if you’re the kind of person who’d prefer to work harder and faster to achieve the same results? You speed demons should check out a couple of relatively recent arrivals in the fitness arena. First is Beachbody’s P90X3, which is a series of very carefully integrated 30-minute sessions that you can do at home. No cakewalk, though: the workouts pack in cardio, resistance, core, flexibility, and balance work, and they are as challenging as they are quick. But hey, it’s only 30 minutes! You can do anything for 30 minutes. CrossFit is another take on the “get in and get it done” workout. You can exercise on your own, but if there are CrossFit classes in your area, do check one out. The group dynamic encourages hard work. These simple but intense sequences last under an hour, from warm-up to walk away.
3. “Working Out Is Not My Style.”
Are you the opposite of a gym rat? If you hate “working out,” don’t worry. There are other ways. Join a community sports team. Find a regular tennis or racquetball partner. Fire up your strength and agility on the soccer field. Get a killer cardio workout playing Ultimate Frisbee. With all of these, the time flies while your health improves.
Another great “non-exercise” exercise is dancing. Whether you’re sweating in a dance club, taking hip-hop classes at the gym, working it in front of your TV with a dance exergame, or just shakin’ your thang in the rec room, dance of any kind can give you a cardio workout and improve your balance and flexibility. Plus, it gives you an excuse to buy sexy little dance dresses. Note: if you go out dancing for exercise, don’t quench your thirst with Margaritas! This is your workout, kiddo: stick to water.
Also, don’t overlook walking. A healthy walking habit won’t give you six-pack abs, but according to study after study, walking is tremendously beneficial for heart health and endurance. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, walking even has a positive impact on cognitive function. So there really is something to the notion of going for a walk to clear your head.
4. “I’m interested in the mind-body connection.”
While some people derive an immense satisfaction from a good, sweaty gym session, others want fulfillment of a different kind in their exercise routine. For these seekers, yoga or martial arts may be the answer. As The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reports, “the studies comparing the effects of yoga and exercise seem to indicate that, in both healthy and diseased populations, yoga may be as effective as or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcome measures.” Studies also show that traditional Asian martial arts improve physical and emotional wellness. As for sweating: anyone who has ever spent any time in a Karate studio or taken a Vinyasa Flow yoga class knows that plenty of perspiration is involved here, too.
Starting and sticking with an exercise routine can be a challenge. Hopefully you’ve found some inspiration here to put some joy—yes, joy!—into your workouts.
Kim Kash is the author of Ocean City Lowdown: A Jamie August Novel and Ocean City: A Guide to Maryland’s Seaside Resort. She is also a freelancer, writing about travel, food, and wellness. Kim has been a writer and editor for over 20 years, many of those in the book trade with Daedalus Books. She is a founder of the Greenbelt Farmers Market near Washington, D.C. A few years ago, Kim and her husband sold everything and moved to the Middle East. Since then, she has traveled to fourteen new countries, become a certified yoga teacher, and learned to sail, dive, and climb.