If the whole concept of gyms turns you off, you aren’t alone. Maybe you don’t like sweaty machines or macho “dudes” crowded in front of the wall-to-wall mirrors. Maybe the cost of a gym membership causes you to think twice. Or maybe the mere mention of “workout” or “exercise” makes you cringe.
It’s okay. Gyms aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Excuses aside, your body still needs movement and exercise to stay happy.
Most of us acknowledge that exercise reduces the risk of chronic diseases, supports healthy digestion and circulation, detoxifies the body, increases energy and strength, and improves overall health. The positive effects go beyond just the physical body.
Exercise is one of the essential primary foods—the deeper things you hunger for (beyond food) that affect your health and happiness. It has a huge impact on your emotions, your mind, and your connection to others. Engaging in exercise can help you come into balance in other areas of your life. How?
The body and mind are connected, and affect one another.
Your physical body affects your emotions and mental state, and vice versa. For example, you are sick or in pain and feel grumpy, short-tempered or distracted as a result, or you are stressed and this manifests in your body as tense shoulder muscles or headaches.
How can you use this body-mind connection to your advantage?
You can use movement to release negative emotions or feelings (e.g. anger, frustration) in a constructive way, reduce tension and stress, calm the mind (e.g. “runner’s high”), bring your awareness back into your body, and enjoy the outdoors.
If you hate the gym and refuse to go, get creative and find alternative ways to get exercise and movement into your life. Not sure where to start?
Here are 10 ways to get your body moving without setting foot in a gym.
1. Go for a walk
Research shows that walking for just 20 minutes a day is one of the best things you can do for your health. Go for a morning stroll with your partner and point out the small beauties you see around the neighborhood. Take a walk in the park with your neighbor and chat about the good things life. Go for a solo walk when you get home from work to decompress and get a little alone time. It’s free, and you can do it anywhere, anytime, and with anyone.
2. Dance, dance, dance!
Anyone who has danced their heart out at a club, rocked out to great music at a party, or ended a dance class dripping with sweat and smiling will tell you that dancing is an amazing way to work out. So sign up for a dance class. Put on some tunes and dance around while cooking dinner. Blast your favorite song when you are home alone and get down!
3. Take the stairs
Next time you have a choice between taking the elevator or escalator, take the stairs. You cardiovascular system will thank you, even if you’re totally winded the first few times. You will see just how quickly your legs, buns, and cardiovascular system get into shape.
4. Insert small exercises into your day routine
Identify a few everyday activities/events and associate small movements with them. Do 20 jumping jacks before you hop in the shower. Do calf raises while waiting in line at the bank. Clench and release your gluts while you drive. Park your car 2 blocks from your destination and walk. You get the idea. Be creative.
5. Laugh more
Laughing is good for the body, mind and soul. It not only burns calories, but it reduces the levels of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) in your body while increasing health-enhancing hormones such as endorphins.
Watch stand-up comedy. Get silly with friends. Laugh at yourself (we all take ourselves way too seriously). Watch babies and children and do what they do. They seem to get something we adults have forgotten.
6. Get around by bike
Cruise around with friends, ride to the library, or commute to school or work. Cycling strengthens your heart and lungs, helps you slow down and take in the scenery, lessens your impact on the environment, and increases the connection between your body, mind and surroundings.
And in case you didn’t already know, helmets are super sexy. Protect that precious brain of yours. You only have one!
7. Take a yoga class
It’s all too easy these days to be “too busy” to check in with yourself or notice the messages your body is giving you until it’s too late (i.e. sickness, injury, etc.).
Doing yoga can increase your endurance, flexibility, and core strength. It can also help you relax and rejuvenate, calm the hamster-wheel mind, reconnect you with your body and its needs, and increase your general awareness.
There are many styles of yoga. Some are more relaxing and rejuvenating (Hatha and Yin Yoga). Some are more fast-paced and active (Ashtanga and Bikram Yoga). Others have a stronger emphasis on energy and spirituality (Tantra and Kundalini Yoga). Explore them and discover what works best for you.
8. Go for a walk or hike in nature
Being in nature gives your body more oxygen, stimulates your senses, connects you to the world around you, and reminds you that you were not meant to spend your whole life indoors. Visit your favorite nature spot or explore places you’ve never been. Make it an adventure.
9. Get involved in a sport
Playing sports is not only good for physical health, but also a wonderful way to form new friendships and become part of a community. Take up tennis. Join a soccer or football team. Sign up for a local softball league. Start a jogging group with friends or coworkers. Make your sports hobby a tool for your health.
10. Have active sex
It’s important to acknowledge that we are sexual beings with legitimate sexual needs and desires. What does this have to do with exercise?
The research is already out there – women who exercise regularly tend to have more active sex lives, reach orgasm faster, and are aroused more easily than sedentary women.
So why not combine forces and get your sexercise!
Active sex can have the same effects as an intense workout. Your heart rate and metabolic rate increases, you burn calories, and you strengthen and stretch your muscles. Sex has also been shown to boost the immune system and decrease stress. In addition to the health benefits, the pleasure, love and spiritual connection that can be shared between intimate partners is an important element of a balanced, harmonious and fulfilling life.
Exercise and movement don’t need to feel like work.
It can be fun and enjoyable. It can create deeper connections between your body and mind. It can be an opportunity to spend time with your partner, kids, neighbors, friends and family.
You are more likely to continue loving your body through movement if you enjoy yourself while doing it.
So forget the gym, take the “work” out of “workout” and get that body moving.
Do you automatically feel resistance when you think about working out or exercising? Check out this article about how to redefine exercise as movement.