I am a huge advocate of our ability to get fitter, healthier and happier without necessarily needing to hit the gym. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy going to the gym, and do so regularly, but if that was the only thing that I did, with respect to my fitness, I think I would go a little crazy!
Variety is indeed the spice of life and there are so many effective, fun and gratifying ways to keep fit -- to limit it just to one dimension would be a crime.
Movement must form an integral part of life and we can find not just one but several ways to make exercise a part of our daily routine.
Many people wrongly perceive the path to fitness as limited to only "going to the gym" but also baulk at the hassle, commitment or expense of joining a health club. Sometimes, despite already having membership in a gym, their hectic work schedule does not allow daily workouts. The good news is that it's not necessary to hit the gym four-five times a week to become healthy.
Here are my five alternatives to the gym that I personally find effective.
1. Walk with purpose!
I love being outdoors and therefore whenever I travel I am always up for a walk to explore new territories. A walk doesn't just have to be a "walk". You can do step ups on park benches as well as incline and decline push-ups. If you carry a Theraband, which I do quite frequently when I walk, you can do a variety of exercises using light posts and other fixed objects. You can effectively get a full-body workout while exploring your surroundings.
Swimming is a stress-free workout for the body and I try to incorporate it into my regime at least twice or thrice a week. Any opportunity I get, I head into the sea. Swimming against or with the current gives you a great full-body workout. Even walking into the sea and pushing against the waves whilst tensing your core can give you enormous benefits.
A lot of the challenges I have at work often get "solved" in the swimming pool; getting into a rhythm while exercising helps me think. This is my personal time, away from emails and phone calls.
Running evokes, for me, a great freedom that takes me back to my childhood. As you get older, running can be tougher on the body, but as long as you mix it up and don't use the same muscle groups on consecutive days, it's a great fitness activity even as you get older. Running is also the perfect way to explore a new environment, or even the same neighbourhood from a new perspective. Running on the beach is one of my favourite experiences as the sand provides great cushioning and an even more intense workout, while the waves provide a relaxing soundtrack!
4. Exercising with friends and family
Group exercising is not only about motivating each other but also about the anecdotes and experiences you share along the way. Exercising has a significant positive impact on mental health. We know there is a chemical reaction when you exercise as your body releases endorphins. These trigger positive feelings in the body. This positivity and the sense of camaraderie you get when exercising in groups is underrated.
5. Playing a Sport
As we get older a lot of us give up on playing the competitive sports that we loved as children/young adults. Playing sports can not only take us back to our childhood, but also bring out our competitive juices which can give us an edge in our professional lives. Whether it's an individual sport like tennis or a team sport like football, there are avenues for people of all ages to continue their sporting "careers" well beyond what they consider to be their "use by date".
Movement must form an integral part of life and we can find not just one but several ways to make exercise a part of our daily routine. The health benefits will automatically follow.