There are so many ways to exercise (move), that we really have no excuse for chronic sedentary behavior. What is really holding you back from moving? I'm talking about movement that elevates the heart rate, challenges our physical capabilities, and also sometimes makes us laugh, smile, and excited/nervous. Whether it is a perceived barrier, a true barrier, or a self-imposed false belief, something is likely there. Surface it. Do not try to solve all of the problems and barriers you see because let me tell you, there will always be some hindrance. That's true for my life and I'm willing to bet you'd have a similar sentiment to share. One day it will be accessibility; the next day it will be lack of motivation; the next, a heavy to-do list; the next an attitude; and the list goes on. Instead, focus your energy on what you can do, despite the barriers.
Set an intention. What do you intend to come from increasing physical activity? Create a realistic goal that is action-based....something you will do to increase physical activity through a more playful or inviting perspective. Not sure how to set reachable goals? Check out my 7 tools here!
Here are a few ways I have incorporated play and adventure into my life approach to exercise and I hope these will inspire you* to think of any environment as an exercise opportunity, and nature as "God's gym."
Tap into your childish innocence. If you have children, play with them! If you do not, don't be shy! Observe how children play; how you used to play. My favorite at the park exercise routine:
- Money bar pull-ups (3-4 sets; 5-10 repetitions). Begin from a dead hang, arms fully extended, hands about shoulder width apart (palms facing out for pullups, facing you for chinups). Pull yourself up toward the bar, leading with the chest and driving your elbows toward the floor. Repeat.
- Money bar leg raises (3-4 sets; 5-10 repetitions). Hang from the bars with your elbows slightly bent. Tighten your core while positioning your legs together, pointed straight out, knees almost locked. Pump your legs up and down to work out your lower-abdominal muscles. Your strength and range of motion will get better the more you do this.
- Cartwheels and handstands (3-4 sets; 2 repetitions of cartwheels, 5 second hold handstand; alternate). Never compromise on form. Go through the motions and practice these modified if you need to for awhile.
Jump ropes and hula-hoops are small investments with big return. They are great for improving cardiovascular function and neuromotor skills. Jump Roping "helps to develop the left and right hemispheres of the brain, to further improve spacial awareness and reading skills, and increases memory and mental alertness(1)." A weighted hula-hoop is slightly heavier than a traditional hula-hoop, offering more aerobic effort. The Mayo Clinic reports that an average woman can burn approximately 165 calories in 30 minutes of hula hooping, and an average man can burn approximately 200 calories in 30 minutes of hula hooping(2).
Seeking outdoor adventures improves physical and mental health. Any outdoor walking is good for physical health; however, I recommend going to a metropark, state park, or generally somewhere scenic; a place where you can get away from the noisy streets and immerse yourself in the sounds and sights of nature. Making this a weekly family affair is a great way to encourage the whole family to be healthy and to step aside from technology and industrial clutter.
Any space can be "exercise space" as long as it is safe flooring and cleared from debris. Your living room floor, your home office, your bedroom, are all areas of exercise opportunities. Yoga and Pilates are great exercise modalities for small spaces. Looking for something more challenging? Check out my 15 minute workout that focuses on improving strength and cardiovascular function in a short period of time. Use your home office chair to practice squats and calve raises while listening to music on your computer. Set up a podcast or audio book while you practice modified push-ups, leg raises and abdominal twists on the bed, before you rise for the day or go to sleep.
Dancing is good for body and soul. Don't worry; I won't be evaluating you for "Dancing with The Stars." Dancing is just pure expression of movement. Put on your favorite tunes and groove. I also encourage you to move in ways you typically wouldn't on a public dance floor (this can be pretty funny but trust just me). Move your limbs in an expressive way to mimic how you feel or how you want to feel. Some of my favorite times to dance and move, are with my daughter while we make dinner or a random, mid-afternoon breakout session. Just have fun with it!
Squat jumping and vertical jumping are some of my absolute favorite plyometric exercises. Plyometrics are exercises that exert muscles at maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing power. There are different variations but they are wonderful for improving strength and power. They are super fun. My daughter loves to jump along and her giggles always encourage me to keep going.
Always maintain proper form.
Likely an essential from your childhood years of physical education, medicine balls always make things fun. Depending on the size and weight of medicine ball you are using, will determine which exercise to apply. Try using a 5-8 lb. medicine ball to start and doing 3 sets of this rotation:
- Wide-stance push-up. Get into a push-up position with your feet wider than hip-width apart. Place your right hand on top of the medicine ball (if this is too tough, modify on your knees). Balancing on the ball, lower your body into a pushup. Switch sides after 15 repetitions, totaling 30.
- Squat and shoulder raises. Hold your medicine ball at chest level. Place your feet shoulder width apart. As you descend into a squat, raise the medicine ball above your head and hold for 3-5 seconds. Push out of the squat and bring the medicine ball back to neutral, chest-level. Do 15-30 repetitions.
- Mason-twists. Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat, and hold the ball at chest-level. Tighten your abs and lift your legs so they're making a 90-degree angle. Rotate your torso to the right and tap the ball on the floor just outside of your right hip. Pull the ball back to chest-level and rotate to the left. Continue alternating sides for a total of 15-30 repetitions. *if you find yourself shifting too much and are not able to balance well, you can modify this by touching your tip toes to the edge of a wall to encourage balance.
I sure hope these ideas will help you put some of the fun back into fitness! Did you like this post? Please like it and share. I'd love to hear from you! How do you make working out fun? Share in the comments below.
*Disclaimer: As always, consult your doctor to get a medical clearance before you start this or any other type of workout.