Circuit training. Body mass index. Set point theory. Range of motion. The terms associated with exercise and their theories could fill many volumes. And there are a few exercise enthusiasts who would enjoy learning more about them. But for the majority of us, there's often one thing lacking in our perception of fitness, and that's simply having fun.
Think back to your childhood when hours were spent playing outside with friends at the park, swimming, hopscotch, basketball, jumping rope, bicycling, a game of chase, tennis, racquetball, jumping on the trampoline, and the list goes on. Each one of these activities was great exercise, but we weren't thinking of that. We were just having fun.
Age has a way of taking the fun out of everyday things and replacing it with heavy-duty topics like responsibility, mortgage payments, and car repairs. But, wait -- we don't have to succumb to half-empty side of life! And exercise doesn't have to diminish into a never-ending glossary of terms. It can be enjoyable, and yes, a part of the day you actually look forward to.
"Putting the fun back in exercise will help you be consistent and reap the rewards of fitness: a slim, toned body, good cardiovascular health, flexible joints and ligaments and increased energy," said Robert Kingham, Director of Dynamic Dimensions of West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital.
Determining that you will exercise for 30 - 40 minutes each day is the first step. Fitness and health experts all agree that daily exercise is ideal for maintaining a healthy weight and increasing the body's resistance to disease. "Schedule it just like you would an appointment at work. It needs to be part of your everyday routine," said Kingham.
An efficient workout will raise your heart rate for a sustained amount of time, which burns calories, raises your metabolism and keeps your heart strong. With that in mind, the specific type of exercise you choose is up to you.
"Moving your body is something many adults forget how to do," explained Kingham. "As kids, we're busy and moving from the time we wake up to the time we reluctantly go to bed. Adults, on the other hand, are sedentary most of the day." We watch TV for hours a day, use a remote to change the channel, many jobs are done while at a computer in a comfortable chair, we drive wherever we need to go. If you really think about it, movement is becoming passé.
No wonder we're overweight and stressed out.
Researchers at Tufts University say that the more fun an exercise is, the more stress it reduces. If you're a social animal, try group activities at the gym, team volleyball, line dancing or playing softball. If you love to be outdoors, try cycling, tennis, or running track. For those who crave competing against themselves, try marathons, or swimming.
Instead of concentrating on getting 27 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, think instead of playing a several sets of tennis with a friend. Arrange for a few rounds of racquetball, or re-discover the pleasure of swimming. "Once you make up your mind to incorporate movement in your day, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the number of things that are really fun," Kingham said. "Our Group Groove class, for instance, is all about just moving to the music. During a class, almost everyone is smiling, just because it's fun. We don't concentrate on exact movements, it's all about just moving to the beat."
So what can you do to pump up the fun? Try these ideas:
Buddy up. Adding people can make a difference, if you're a social person. Find an exercise partner, or join an aerobics class. Seeing a friendly face and exercising together helps you be accountable.
Set goals. If you're motivated by statistics, take your measurements now and then re-measure after two or three months; or chart your weight each week. Seeing a decrease in the numbers, whether it's a scale or the measuring tape is a great motivator for anyone.
Become an expert. If you enjoy cycling, take it to the next level. Study up on it, learn more about the equipment necessary, find out more about the professionals, see if there are any clubs available that cater to the sport.
Be bold. Sign up for a manageable marathon, or a combined race of running, cycling and swimming. Training to be able to compete in such an event will keep you on track, and there's nothing like the thrill of finishing the race.
Mix it up. If you're the type to enjoy variety, don't bore yourself with the same routine every day. It's okay to try something new.
Get silly. Turn on the stereo at home and just start moving.