I hate what I call ‘prescribed exercise’.
I’m talking about the kind of exercise that you feel you should do in order to get/remain in good shape. The kind of exercise that you feel guilty not doing. The kind of exercise that you probably don’t enjoy.
Because I hate it, I don’t do it. And yet I still exercise; I just choose to exercise in ways that I enjoy.
The simple fact is this: there are an enormous number of ways in which you can be physically fit and enjoy it. If you hate the gym as much as I do, the following list will be absolutely invaluable. I can practically guarantee that you’ll find a physical activity below that you will enjoy doing.
The Role of Exercise in Your Life
Let’s start by defining exercise.
Exercise is not running on a treadmill for an hour. It is not picking up the nearest dumbbell at a gym and doing 20 bicep curls. These are types of exercise but they do not represent exercise – at least, not the types of exercise that you will discover below.
Here’s a common dictionary definition of exercise:
Activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness.
I hate that definition and reject it. For example, one can exercise for the sheer love of whatever activity you’re doing – it doesn’t have to be about sustaining or improving health and fitness. Let’s not put that pressure on ourselves. Let’s not stick a label on exercise and make it something to aspire to (or feel pressured by).
Instead, let’s define exercise as follows: anything that elevates your resting heart rate. For the record, that involves just about anything beyond sitting or lying down and doing nothing.
By my definition, just about anything you do in life is exercise. And that is incredibly liberating. No longer do we have to think about “physical effort carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness” when it comes to exercising – we can just think about moving more.
That opens up a world of possibilities. After all, there are undoubtedly a huge number of things you like (or don’t mind) doing that involve moving, which means that you just have to focus on one simple fact: if you do more of those things, you’ll be healthier.
If you make a conscious effort to engage in more physical activities that you enjoy, you’ll get fitter and healthier without engaging in any prescribed exercise. That’s the reality.
The Key to Exercising Sustainably
The government tells us that we should do x amount of y type of exercise, z times per week. That’s all very well and good, but trying to adhere to such strict and measured guidelines is not a sustainable means of staying in shape for many of us.
So the first thing I’ll say is this: even if you know that you’re not doing enough exercise, don’t worry about it for the moment.
You may be wondering why I advocate such an approach. My reasoning is simple: the Healthy Enough way is to create habits that last a lifetime. If it takes you six months to get to the point where you’re doing “enough” exercise (as deemed by the authorities), so be it. Trying to go from doing little or no exercise to the prescribed amount instantly will almost certainly end in failure (whether that failure is immediate, or weeks or months down the line), so it’s best that you adopt a more gradual approach.
You should probably try walking before you can run – literally. If six months pass and you’re doing no more exercise than you did before, then you need to give yourself a kick up the ass, but don’t berate yourself for not going from 0–60mph in an instant. We’re playing the long game here.
Remembering the Role of Your Diet
When it comes to being Healthy Enough, your diet is far more important than the amount of exercise you do.
Don’t get me wrong – enjoyable exercise should be a part of your life, but it is not the panacea for healthy living. Growing evidence from scientific studies show that if you attempt to lose weight only by exercising more, you’re likely to fail. Meanwhile, attempting to lose weight by dieting only has a far greater success rate.
So remember this: exercising more is not an excuse to eat more. If you treat it as such, you’ll probably find that you lose no weight (or even put weight on as you eat more additional calories than you burned off). Increasing the amount of exercise you do should be seen as a boost to your weight loss/management efforts, not an excuse to binge.
36 Easy Ways to Exercise (And Enjoy It!)
You may say that you don’t enjoy exercising, but in reality, you just don’t enjoy certain types of exercise.
There are very few people in this world who don’t like moving – who would be happy staying in bed for the rest of their lives. As such, exercise is a part of your daily life, whether you think you like it or not. We’re talking about moving more, but making sure that you enjoy moving more. You can’t not enjoy exercise when you frame it within the parameters of only doing things that you like.
With that said, let’s not waste any more time – below you will find, in no particular order, a list of 36 easy ways to exercise and enjoy it!
Seriously – just stand more. You would be amazed at how much good this can do you.
For example, a University of Chester study discovered that when standing, the human heart beats (on average) ten beats per minute faster compared to sitting. By standing for three more hours per day than usual, you could burn 30,000 more calories (roughly equal to 8 1/2 lbs of fat) in a year.
So take the opportunity to stand whenever you can – at work, while watching TV or playing video games, and so on. It can make a big difference over time.
If you’re standing, you might as well walk too (if you can). Walking is just plain good for you – it is arguably the most natural movement that humans are capable of doing.
But it gets better: there is growing evidence to suggest that walking can be better for you than running (although you are of course unlikely to burn as many calories).
So take the opportunity to walk more whenever you can. It can just be the smallest of things – say taking a longer route to the kitchen from your living room, or using the upstairs bathroom when you’re downstairs (and vice versa). It all counts.
Hiking is not only incredibly good for you, it’s also a great social activity. Getting together with friends and going for a moderate hike out in the country is one of life’s simple pleasures as far as I am concerned.
You don’t have to make it difficult for yourself either – don’t try to run before you can walk (figuratively speaking). Pick some easy and well-populated hiking routes to start with, and only graduate to steeper gradients and less well-worn paths when you’re ready to.
If you’re feeling adventurous on one of your hikes, don’t be afraid to have a climb! We did this as kids, so why can’t we as adults?
If you’re out in the sticks you’ll probably find plenty of opportunities to climb trees and rocks. Try it – you may have forgotten how much simple pleasure can be derived from scrambling over something.
5. Wall or Rock Climb
If you’re ready to take your climbing to the next level, nothing beats wall or rock climbing. It’s a hell of a good workout. It can also be a great way of overcoming a fear of heights, as you are in total control of how high you go.
If you want a real challenge, try lead climbing. This is where you hook yourself in as you go up, which means that there is no rope above you to give you helpful tugs and aid your ascension.
I love dancing. Don’t get me wrong – I can’t dance for shit, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.
Not only is it great exercise, you can do it anywhere (depending upon how little you care about what other people think of you). Do it in the comfort of your own home if you are shy – put on your favorite upbeat song and get grooving. You could take it a step further too, and join a dancing class. Being able to actually dance is one of those cool little things that will impress people no end.
When it comes to doing more exercise, kids are great. You can jump around and generally act like a kid yourself without anyone thinking anything of it.
However, don’t be afraid to regress to your inner child whenever the mood strikes you. I don’t care how old you are – you can always play around.
8. Active Social Encounters
Instead of meeting a friend for a drink, why not head to the park for a game of frisbee or go for a hike (as already mentioned)? There’s a whole bunch of activities you can do with friends that don’t involve sitting down and ingesting caffeine.
It had to be said. If your partner is game then don’t be afraid to mix things up. Try different positions, different rooms – whatever takes your fancy (as long as it’s legal!). It’ll be good for your relationship and your health.
10. Boxing, Martial Arts, or Self Defense
Let’s face it – we all want to be Bruce Lee or Muhammad Ali at heart.
11. Amateur Sports
Getting involved in amateur sports is a great thing to do for a myriad of reasons – it’s a great way to make new friends, it keeps you out of the house, it gets you out in the sunshine, and it is of course very good for your health.
12. Less Common Sports
So you might be in a softball team, but have you ever considered anything a little more out of left field? Consider the likes of squash, table tennis, ultimate frisbee, crazy golf, archery or even roller derby.
If it involves a competition and physical movement, it’s a sport. So get to it!
13. Get a Bike
Heading out on your bike rather than in the car is better for your health, your wallet, and the environment. You can’t argue with that.
14. Play With a Ball
There are an enormous number of things that you can do with a ball. Keep-ups with a soccer ball, tag football, catch…the list goes on. Or why not head out to the batting cages? Hitting a ball with a stick is always fun.
15. Speed Cleaning
I hate cleaning with a passion. However, speed cleaning can actually be a whole lot of fun.
The concept is simple: strap on your iPod and set yourself a target (e.g. to clean the living room before the first track finishes). It’s remarkably good exercise, and fun to boot.
I went through a period of skipping rope – not only is it absurdly good exercise, you can quite easily catch the bug and want to master it.
17. Sky Zone
Need I say anything more?
18. Play a Musical Instrument
Strap your guitar on and go crazy. That’ll burn plenty of calories, but playing any musical instrument is good for you – especially if you can stand at the same time.
19. Get a Dog
My sister goes running with her dog and regularly laments how effortlessly fit he is. But he’s also an awesome running companion and certainly encourages her to exercise more than she might otherwise. After all, what better reason to head out for a walk is there than a dog who treats such activities as the most exciting thing in life?
20. Swap Your Chair for a Swiss Ball
Sitting on an unstable surface forces you to engage your core and adopt a far better posture than you might otherwise. Sitting on a Swiss ball is an especially good idea when playing video games and watching TV.
I know that the concept of swimming certainly doesn’t seem like fun to everyone, but if you’re not ready to start doing lengths, that doesn’t mean you still can’t get wet. While I’m not a big fan of swimming for the sake of exercise, I love diving and playing around underwater. Do what you enjoy!
22. Video Gaming
There’s no need to feel guilty about sitting on front of the TV on your Xbox or PlayStation – just make sure you’re active! As previously mentioned, you can stand (or even walk around the room) or sit on a swiss ball to keep your muscles engaged.
Even better, why not play more physically engaging video games like Rock Band, Sing Star, Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Fit, and so on?
When it comes to prescribed dosages of exercise, the UK health authority classes pushing a lawnmower and ‘heavy gardening’ as activities that contribute towards your weekly exercise. So take a leaf out of their book (pun thoroughly intended) and get out into the garden!
I learned to juggle a few months ago. It’s just one of those random little skills that’s cool to be able to do. Plus it keeps you standing (and if you’re bad at it, moving around a fair bit!).
25. Rollerblading, Rollerskating, or Skateboarding
So you may not live in 1990s LA, but you still might want to give one of these alternative forms of transport a go!
Balancing is awesome for your core strength/endurance and a great form of exercise. So why not gamify it by trying out slacklining?
27. Zombies, Run!
If you’re not averse to the concept of running and haven’t heard of this brilliant app before, you need to check it out. It can actually make running fun.
This is one of those once-a-year deals for many of us, but paintball can be a whole load of fun, and a great social activity to boot.
29. Laser Tag
Who doesn’t like laser tag? It’s like paintball, apart from you don’t get the gratification of decorating your friends. On the plus side, it’s a lot quicker and easier to do than its more colorful counterpart.
Once you’re finished at your local laser tag, why not go for a frame or two of bowling? Extra points for ridiculous bowling technique and flair.
31. Water Sports
There’s loads of fun things you can do on the water: from boogie boarding, to surfing, to windsurfing, to kayaking, and much more. Last time I kayaked I ended up stranded on an underwater rock, and shortly thereafter in the river itself, but I still had great fun!
32. Winter Sports
If you’ve not tried skiing or snowboarding before, then I heartily recommend you do so if possible – even if it’s just going to a nearby dry or artificial slope. You may discover your new favorite form of exercise.
Also, if you live in a snowy area, sledging and general playing in the snow absolutely counts as exercise!
Enjoy your woodwork (or interested in it)? That’s exercise.
34. Chop Wood
If you have a wood burning stove then don’t buy your wood pre-chopped – go out there and do the job yourself. You’ll get a feeling of what it’s like to be a real (wo)man.
Over to You
Alright, that’s me done! A whopping 34-strong list of fun exercises that’ll keep you fit and healthy.
In reality this only represents the tip of the iceberg, and there are almost certainly a number of means of exercise I’ve not mentioned above that will be perfect for you. However, I hope that the list has inspired you – directly or indirectly – to move more.
Do you have any suggestions of your own to add to the list above? Let me know!