We hear it all the time: We need exercise. Every single one of us. Exercise can make us healthier, happier, and more productive. It can make our muscles stronger, our waists smaller, our minds clearer and our lives longer.
But despite its obvious and well-documented benefits, sometimes we just don’t want to exercise. Does that give us an excuse to be couch potatoes? Not so much.
The average person needs a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day for maximum benefit. I sat down with Shannon Slovensky, M.Ed., an exercise physiologist with UVA Health System, to talk about fun ways to incorporate physical activity into our days. When exercise is fun, we’re more likely to stick with it and make it a permanent part of our routines.
Move to the Music
Dancing isn’t just for movie stars. Anyone can crank up the music in their living room and get moving. “Dancing is a great way to get the whole family involved,” Slovensky says. “Have the kids make a playlist of about 4-5 upbeat songs, and then dance for about 15 minutes. The idea is to get your heart rate up, which dancing can definitely do.”
Try a Zumba Class
Zumba and hip-hop dance classes are really popular right now. Not only are these workouts a lot of fun and set to energizing music, but they also benefit the body in ways that some traditional workouts do not. Exercise like walking, running or cardio machines tend to rely on the same muscle groups moving within a limited range of motion repeatedly. With Zumba, and other forms of aerobic dance, the routines consist of multidirectional movements and involve multiple muscle groups, footwork, coordination and balance.
Get Back to the Basics and Walk (your dog wants to come, too)
Walking is one of the easiest and most effective forms of exercise. It’s a great way to build leg strength and cardiovascular endurance, and research shows that walking helps to reduce stress. This is another good one for the whole family to enjoy together.
Grab a Hula Hoop
That’s right, a hula hoop. Hooping is an aerobic exercise that tones your abdominals, increases cardiovascular stamina and strengthens core muscles. It’s been proven that women can burn 200 calories in 30 minutes of hula hooping, which is about the amount of calories burned while walking briskly for 30 minutes. And, it’s more fun and a better core workout!
Don’t Let Your Desk Job Stop You
Many of us have sedentary office jobs where we sit at a computer all day. Slovensky recommends standing up at least once every 30 minutes to get your blood flowing and give your body a much-needed stretch. If you want to take it a step further, she recommends this 5-minute workout:
- Stand up and stretch your arms over your head like you just woke up in the morning.
- Do 15 high-knee lifts, alternating one knee at a time (do 15 on each side, no cheating!) followed by…
- 15 hamstring curls
- 15 punch fronts with a slight rotation, like you’re punching a punching bag. Keep a wide stance with your knees slightly bent.
- 15 desk push-ups (you can put your hands on the wall if you’d prefer)
- 15 chair squats with overhead reach. Lower your bottom down until it barely touches the seat of your chair, then stand up and reach your arms overhead. Lower your arms and repeat.
- 15 chair/tricep dips
- When you make it through all of these exercises, repeat them one more time.
- Circle your shoulders a few times and clasp your hands behind you to open your chest and hold for 15 seconds. Then, back to work!
Read our 10-Minute Office Workouts post for more ways to incorporate exercise into your workday.
Find an Activity You Enjoy
Slovensky adds, “The main idea is to find something you enjoy, because then you’ll be more likely to do it! If you don’t enjoy exercise, try combining it with something that you DO enjoy, like talking with a friend or listening to music. Exercise doesn’t have to be a formal class at the gym and you don’t need to hire a personal trainer to get in shape. Just make moving fun, and over time you’ll notice a difference in the way you look and feel.”