Mix it up
Bored with your same old gym routine? Doing an activity that’s both physical and fun, such as dancing or indoor rock climbing, is a super way to get in shape and stay motivated to exercise. “When a physical activity has fun aspects you’re more likely to make it a habit because it doesn’t feel like exercise,” says Ottawa exercise specialist Jennifer Greger. “Trying a new activity will also work your body and your cardiovascular system in a different way than your regular routine so you’ll see better results, especially if you do it at least twice a week.”
Whether you want to kick off a brand-new fitness regimen or add a little variety to your current routine, you’ll have a blast while burning calories with these eight fun activities.
If you like to dance, you’ll love Zumba. This aerobic workout blends choreographed footwork and body movements from salsa, merengue, flamenco and other dances to sculpt your body and burn fat. When you’re grooving to the spicy Latin beats during a Zumba class you won’t even realize that you’re toning your abs, thighs, glutes and arms. Find a class near you or go on Youtube and try Zumba at home.
This 1950s craze is no longer just child’s play. Hula-hooping, or “hooping,” has re-emerged as a great cardio workout to slim your waist, hips, buttocks and thighs while toning your abdominals and lower back muscles. Hooping can be done indoors or out, on your own or with a group in a class setting.
To get started, you’ll need the right hoop, preferably a heavy, large one that is about waist high, says Montreal hula hoop instructor Rebecca Halls. “The children’s hoops sold in toy stores are too small and light.” Here’s the basic technique: hold the hoop at your waist, keeping your legs shoulder- or hip-width apart. With one foot in front of the other and your knees bent, spin the hoop around your waist, using small back and forth or side-to-side movements.
3. Pole dancing
You might feel a little silly walking around a brass pole for the first time— and you’re guaranteed a good giggle—but pole dancing can be a great way to get fit and boost your confidence. Usually done in a class setting, pole dancing is an aerobic workout that builds upper body strength, because you’re lifting your body off the pole, which tones your arms and shoulders and improves posture. “Sensual” fitness classes like pole dancing usually incorporate dance routines, spins on the pole and a floor routine for resistance training for the lower body.
4. Indoor rock climbing
Indoor rock climbing is an anaerobic workout that builds strength and balance and can burn up to 800 calories an hour. “It’s like doing yoga on a wall because you’re constantly shifting your weight so it builds muscles and strengthens your core,” says Maria Richardson, owner of Climber’s Rock in Burlington, Ont. “You’re using your legs to push yourself up the wall and your arms to pull yourself up, so you work muscles you didn’t know you had.”
At indoor climbing gyms, beginners usually start with bouldering (climbing shorter walls without a rope or harness) and top roping (climbing with an instructor or spotter using a harness or rope).
5. Rope jumping
This full-body cardiovascular workout will make you feel like a kid again while strengthening your muscles and bones and improving your coordination. And just fifteen minutes of jumping rope burns about 200 calories.
To get started, you’ll need a good pair of cross trainers to absorb the impact in the balls of your feet and a thin plastic or cloth rope from a sports store. Before you skip, always start with a short warm-up. Here’s the basic technique: With your body slightly bent forward, your legs together and your arms close to your sides, jump over the rope. Make sure you land on the balls of your feet and don’t kick back; your knees should come up front. Aim for three 10-minute rope-jumping workouts every week.
En garde! If you want a fast-paced aerobic workout and you love to compete, sign up for a fencing class. Like a physical chess match, where you learn to anticipate your opponent’s next move and react to it, fencing is an exciting mental and physical exercise. With its intense arm and footwork, fencing burns calories. Also, it improves speed, flexibility and coordination while toning the buttocks, stomach and thigh muscles. Also, your local fencing club will provide the epée or foil, a mask and a jacket to protect your face, chest and arms during each fencing match or “bout.”
7. Teaming up
If there’s a sport you enjoyed as a child or have always wanted to try, such as softball, for example, find a local league and join a team, or organize your friends and family for regular pick-up games. First, you’ll be more motivated to exercise when you’ve got teammates waiting on you. Second of all, you’ll get so focused on the game and social aspects of playing on a team that it won’t feel like exercise.
Feeling unsure about your skills? Check with your local community centre for classes to learn the basics of the sport you’re interested in.
A super alternative to running because it’s easier on the joints, skating is a good aerobic workout that tones your lower body and builds leg strength. The good news is that both ice and inline skating are good calorie burners. On average, a 143-pound woman burns about 330 calories during one hour of continuous skating. Check with your local ice rink for public skating hours. If you don’t know how to ice skate, learn the fundamentals through Skate Canada’s CanSkate programs for beginners of all ages.