When many people picture exercise, they usually picture lifting weights at the gym, going for a run, or fitness bootcamp. These are all great and valid ways of exercising and getting in a good workout, but they are not the only ways to get in shape and stay fit.
I have tried many a workout program; bootcamp, running, walking, pilates, Crossfit, yoga, swimming, spin, cycling, and just plain old gym going. These are all good for different people, but the more intense of these workouts (Crossfit, bootcamp, running) can scare people away.
The intensity can be a deterrent for people who maybe want to stay fit and healthy but aren’t up for anything extreme. I am not a runner (I find running boring), but have been able to stay fit through other methods.
Even if you are just starting out, throwing yourself into a vigorous exercise routine can do more harm than good, as it can be too much too fast.
There are plenty of other things you can do to increase your fitness and stay healthy without a hard core workout. If you are just starting to take exercise more seriously, or if you have an injury or condition that prevents you from doing an intense program, consider starting with these and branching out to a more intense program when you feel ready.
Yoga is gentle but surprisingly challenging. Not just for hippies anymore, yoga has become popular in the past decade in North America for it’s ability to tone and improve flexibility.
Yoga can be a great way of staying fit for somebody who has injuries or asthma. It’s not a vigorous workout, but you will find your body changing after doing yoga regularly.
There are different types of yoga, which provide different benefits. Hatha yoga is gentle, and is great for beginners. Vinyasa yoga is more of a cardiovascular workout.
Walking sort of fell out of style, but it is the oldest and most intuitive form of exercise. Somewhere along the line, people replaced walking with running and hiking, but it’s still a perfectly valid way to stay fit.
Walking is great because you can go as slow or fast as you want; walking is gentle and can allow you to go farther than something more vigourous.
If you wanted a little extra oomph, try speed walking or walking on an incline. This is still much better for your joints than running, but gives you a great workout.
I personally love swimming, and I find that because I love swimming so much, it doesn’t feel like exercise at all. Swimming is easy on your joints, but can be a great workout. You use the majority of your muscles while swimming if you do different strokes.
Swimming can burn a ton of calories, and I find that after a swim I always sleep better.
Try swimming at your own pace and leisure first, and then slowly phase into lap swimming. Swimming at a local YMCA can be cost effective as well, because a membership also comes with the use of the weight room or the ability to take classes (such as yoga).
Pilates is surprisingly difficult, but much more gentle than going for a run or going to Crossfit. Pilates can really help you tone your muscles and build up your cardiovascular ability. Pilates will usually use equipment for the workout. At first, you may not feel like you are being effective, but you’ll notice that your muscles are sore after a pilates class. It’s quite effective.
Exercise doesn’t have to be intense. Just getting off the couch and getting yourself moving is a step in the right direction.