Exercise Outside of the Gym

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

While some of us have visions of walking into the gym in perfectly coordinated athletic gear, killing it in cardio class and weight training like a boss, others of us don’t remember how to drive to our gyms, forgot the membership card is on our keychain, and only recall a gym interior of a gym from Jersey Shore. And the truth is, that’s all fair.

Working out in the gym is not for everyone. Fortunately, getting great exercise does not rely on formal gym attendance, expensive personal trainers, or any expensive group trend in exercise. Let’s explore some options as to how you can get the exercise you need by taking the “G” our of “GTL.”


The first and maybe one of the best ways to do so is in the comfort of your own home. From Jane Fonda to Jazzercise, Richard Simmons to Tae Bo, over the decades we’ve seen all kinds of trends come and go, but what remains is that people enjoy the flexibility, freedom, and privacy of sweating at home. So many options are out there. You can download workout videos from streaming apps, join a trial, month-long, exercise subscription service that allows you to flip through countless programs right at home, start stocking your own collection, or even visit the public library which has countless DVDs for free. It’s a great way to try out some of the trends, and can invest later for your own collection if you find some you love.

Another way to get in some exercise is by using a pedometer, health/smart watch, or even your health app on your cell phone. Every step counts, and increasing your activity is not only important, but can become a “healthy, addictive habit.” You’ll start challenging yourself to park further away from your destination to get in some extra steps. You might even decide to start walking to nearby destinations. In tandem with some of these lifestyle changes, owning a pedometer or heartrate monitor can open your eyes to the degree to which your life is sedentary – or not, and allows you to modify accordingly. Some “active” people are shocked to find out they barely take enough steps throughout the day.

Many don’t like the repetitive nature of working out in a gym, and although they like being around people, exercise classes are sometimes not for them. This is where organized sports or league activity can be perfect. You not only get to know others, but you can improve or learn a new sport. Softball leagues, soccer teams, all kinds of adult sport groups are available or out there. Sometimes it’s the first step we need to realize how much we’ve missed the activity level of our youth, or the activity level we never quite reached, but now can strive for.

Speaking of the outdoors, we could just step outside. Some of us live in places with fantastic climates and rarely venture to the beach, take a walk on the sand, or a hike our hills or paths. Our lives are hectic, sedentary, and routine. Taking your workout outdoors can force you to slow down and appreciate the places around you and be mindful of your health and your body.

While maybe not the favorite on the list, housework and chores definitely count. Vacuuming, dusting, lifting, cleaning, scrubbing all qualify. Don’t underestimate the exertion required to tidy up. And if you’re especially ambitious, have a green thumb or have always wanted to try, step outside and learn more about yardwork and gardening.

And the last way, and perhaps the best of all, is to go outside with your children and let them take the lead. A trip to the park, the sports field, the beach, or even just goofing around with an indoor dance party. Burning calories and making memories for both you and your kids. Are your “kids” fuzzy and on a leash? Have the same fun outdoors hiking and exploring. Your pets need the activity as much as you do. Some of us take better care of our dogs than ourselves. If you must, start by telling yourself it’s for your dog and the rest will follow.

There are so many options to getting in our exercise minutes. While the gym might be the perfect place for some, it’s the last place for others. It’s always good to shake things up and try some new things. If want to try the gym but remain intimidated after that one time in 1997, sometimes it’s best to step back inside and see if the gym in your memory hasn’t become more welcoming, inclusive, and easier to navigate. Don’t hesitate to ask for guidance, especially when using new machines or movements. A lot of gyms offer free initial consult consultation and training to get you on your feet.

At the end of the day, how you get your exercise in is less important than the fact that you’re doing it. These behaviors compound, and before you know it, the days and weeks pass and your health, body and mind have all reaped the benefits.

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