PUTTING THE FUN IN FITNESS

Finding it difficult to fit in the recommended 30-45 minutes of exercise three days a week? Most women won’t go out of their way to fit in exercise they see as tedious or hard work. In this case, they need to seek out some fun activities. One doesn’t need to run laps, do aerobics, ride a stationary bike, or work out on a Stairmaster if they find these activities boring. James Rippe, M.D., author of “Fit Over Forty” and director of the Center for Clinical and Lifestyle Research at Tufts University in Boston, agrees, adding that engaging in fun activities seems to have a stress-reducing factor that goes beyond ordinary exercise.

“National data show that people who regularly dance significantly reduce their risk of heart disease,” he says. “The same goes for people who garden. I think that is not because of the aerobic value of the exercise, but because of the spiritual benefits.” So round up your girlfriends and go line-dancing. Just last week I was at a county-western establishment and the majority of the line-dancers were women, aged 50+. You don’t have to be a “spring chicken” to dance!

Till a patch of soil, spread in some compost, and plant some vegetables or flowers. The upkeep of the garden (weeding, watering, picking vegetables, pinching back old flower blooms) will keep you out in the fresh air and sunshine, while at the same time, burn calories.

Incorporating fun activities into your everyday routine are something anyone can do. While grocery shopping isn’t “fun” for most people, it certainly should qualify for an Olympic event!

Here are some ideas to get you going:

  • Take your dog for a walk (or borrow a neighbor’s dog).
  • Go outside and play with your kids – soccer, basketball, baseball.
  • Take a family bike ride.
  • In the winter, go sledding or ice-skating with your kids (or nieces, nephews, or grandkids).
  • Wash the car.
  • Rake leaves, then jump in them!
  • Take a walk in a beautiful park and clear your mind.
  • Go bowling (but forego the pizza and beer!).
  • Try your hand at badminton or ping-pong.
  • Go golfing.
  • Take a leisurely swim.

Some women thrive on sociability. For them, group activities are pleasurable: mall walking, team volleyball, square dancing, softball. Others find pleasure in the outdoors – an indoor treadmill might be boring, but a hike is fun. Still others find joy in solitary activities, such as rock climbing or training for a 3-mile walkathon. The fun factor increases when you minimize monotony and routine, and maximize sociability and variety.

Joe Morales, a personal trainer in Pasadena, Calif. says, “A workout is 75 – 80 percent mental. To most people, a gym is a place to go to work, so I keep people outdoors and keep things fun.” Some of his suggestions include stair climbing at a college stadium, playing tennis, learning to skate, gardening, dancing, and traveling on active vacations.

Don’t overlook the value of housework! While it may not rate high on the “fun factor” scale, it still has to be done. You can make it more enjoyable by putting on upbeat music. Really get into it by using your muscles to dust, vacuum or wash floors. Incorporate your children’s help by setting a timer and having a race – who can pick up the toys in the living room, or who can fold the most towels before the timer goes off.

Weight loss is typically a side effect, but making it your goal turns the activity into an obligation, not an enjoyable, memorable, and permanent part of your life. A few years from now, you won’t remember a few pounds lost, or a workout at the gym, but you’ll remember playing with your kids, a beautiful hike, or the first fruits of effort springing forth from your garden.

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