Exercise Outside of the Gym

By Elizabeth Schledorn RN, MSN, CNOR, CBN, CHHC

While everyone agrees that exercise is a vital component of any healthy lifestyle, the word still conjures up images of running like a hamster on a treadmill or sweaty squatting and grunting like a Russian weightlifter. The phrase “no pain, no gain” comes to mind and many retreat from their unused gym memberships, vowing to start exercising “tomorrow” because they’re just too tired and intimidated to start today.

Exercise shouldn’t be torture! Exercise… physical activity… should be an opportunity to explore and rejoice in the human body’s… your body’s… ability to move, stretch, feel, and experience the World. For many people, the gym isn’t necessarily the perfect place to do this. If you’re struggling to find the motivation to walk into your long-lost gym, try going in the opposite direction instead. There are many options and benefits to exercising outside of the gym.

The first place to start is in your own home. Fitness DVDs, whether purchased, borrowed from the library, or obtained at a garage sale, offer scheduling convenience, portability, and variety. Video game systems, such as the Wii and Xbox, offer fitness games that can prove challenging and addictive. Household chores, such as carrying the laundry upstairs or vacuuming the entire house, offer full-body conditioning. Even playing with your kids and pets can count as physical activity.

The key with home-bound activities is to be mindful about focusing on your body’s form and consciously engaging your muscles in the activity. Don’t just toss the ball to Fido…get out there, run/ dash/ sprint, and make Fido (and your butt) work for the ball!

While exercising at home may be convenient, there are additional benefits to taking your physical activity into the Great Outdoors. Exercising on uneven terrain engages more muscles and increases your calorie burn. Outdoor scenery helps decrease boredom, increases feelings of calm, and promotes a deeper connection to Nature. Breathing in fresh air helps decrease bouts of illness related to chronically breathing stale indoor air. Sunlight promotes Vitamin D formation which leads to stronger immune and skeletal systems and fights depression.

While starting out slow is always advisable, progressively push yourself to find your own definition of “brisk” when doing these outdoor activities:

  • Dance— ditch the waltz and Shake Your Booty!
  • Golf— shoulder your bag, leave the cart behind, and walk the course
  • Swimming— channel your Inner Olympian and go for the Gold!
  • Gardening—show those weeds who’s Boss and plant food for an Army
  • Walking—hoof it like a hungry animal is stalking you and move with energy, purpose, and a will to survive!

Say “goodbye” to those feelings of intimidation and guilt the next time you drive by your old gym. By changing your definition and concept of exercise, you’ll soon be able to naturally and enjoyably include exercise as a part of your daily life.

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