By Sarah Kuta
Reviewed by Emily Gonzalez, ND for Scientific Accuracy
Exercising can sometimes feel like an exclusive club, accessible only to people who are already super fit. But no matter where you are on your fitness journey, you too can experience joy while moving your body, getting your heart rate up and working toward your health and wellness goals.
If the thought of working out conjures up images of a muscled Arnold Schwarzenegger lifting ultra-heavy weights in a spartan-style gym, think again. Working out can be whatever you want it to be—it doesn’t have to be restricted to the weight room or a boring treadmill. In fact, you can work out anywhere, at any time. (Yes, the park, your office stairwell and your kitchen all count.)
So, what are some fun ways to exercise that don’t involve a gym membership? If you’re in need of a little inspiration for your next calorie-burning routine, we’ve got a challenging (but enjoyable) list of exercise activities that just might tempt you to jump off the couch—before you get to No. 23!
WHY SHOULD YOU EXERCISE?
We all know we should exercise—along with drinking plenty of water, getting a full night’s sleep, eating fresh, whole foods and using a nutritional supplement for extra support. But how exactly does exercise impact us?
Researchers have spent a lot of time studying this question. Exercise has numerous science-backed benefits—and some of them might even surprise you:
- Working out can extend your lifespan, help stave off cardiovascular diseases and lower your risk of diabetes.
- Physical activity can help fight the effects of aging, while keeping your immune system vibrant and healthy, too.
- Regular movement can help strengthen your bones and help you feel more energized and less fatigued. (And who doesn’t want that?)
- Exercise can provide positive benefits to your mental health and sharpness, as it can help lower your risk of depression and work to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
There may be tons of different ways to exercise, but it’s helpful to keep in mind that they all add up to the same physical and mental health benefits. As long as you’re moving your body, you’re on the right track.
HOW TO MAKE EXERCISE FUN
Exercise can be intimidating, especially if you’re just starting out or you’re jumping back in after a long break. Your brain can conjure up so many reasons why you shouldn’t exercise—it’s hard, you’re stressed out from work, you’ll get sweaty, you’ll get tired too quickly, people will laugh at you if you do it wrong, you don’t have time, the gym is only for bodybuilders and extreme athletes, it’s boring, the gym is expensive, you don’t have the right shoes or clothing…the list goes on and on.
Sure, some of these reasons are totally valid—exercise is challenging, which is why it helps you get stronger. But, on the flip side, you can learn how to make working out fun, so long as you find the activity that’s right for you.
23 FUN WAYS TO EXERCISE
So, how do you find fun exercises or activities that actually make you excited about working out? You have to be willing to think outside the box a bit.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite fun ways to exercise for inspiration. Be sure to bookmark this list of exercise activities for the next time you’re feeling unmotivated or bored with your current routine!
1. ROLLERBLADING OR ROLLERSKATING
As you cruise along the sidewalk in your rollerblades or roller skates—with the wind in your hair and a smile on your face—you won’t even notice that you’re technically exercising. Stop by a local thrift shop or used sporting goods retailer to find a pair in your size, then… Just. Start. Skating. Grab a helmet and some elbow and knee pads while you’re at it, too. Better to be safe than sorry, right?
Hiking can be whatever you want—a super steep and rocky climb, or a mellow saunter along a mostly flat trail. The important thing is: You’re outside, enjoying nature and moving your body. Download apps like AllTrails or TrailLink to find scenic hiking trails in your area.
3. GO TO THE BATTING CAGES
Swinging a baseball bat is no easy feat. But, spending a whole 30 minutes or an hour at a batting cage is a seriously good workout—and tons of fun!
4. CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING
When winter rolls around, it can totally zap your motivation to work out. But instead of grumbling about the cold, snowy weather, why not enjoy it with fun exercises like cross-country skiing? If you’re not quite sold on the investment, rent a pair of skis or find some at your local used sporting goods store, then enjoy the simplicity of gliding across the snow. Many local parks allow residents to cross-country ski after big snowstorms in the winter, or you can research designated local cross-country areas.
Pro tip: This low-impact activity can actually help you boost your endurance and strength—without doing a number on your joints.
Even on a calm lake, paddling a kayak is a great workout. You’ll engage your core, your arms and your legs as you propel yourself through the water and stabilize the vessel while you move. Plus, you’ll get a chance to enjoy nature, which also benefits your physical and mental health.
When the snow is too deep for hiking boots, strap on a pair of snowshoes and hit the trail. This peaceful activity is just like walking through the woods, except you’re able to stay on top of the snow—rather than sinking into it. Go at your own pace, and be sure to stop to enjoy the sparkling winter scenery every now and then.
7. STANDUP PADDLEBOARD YOGA
Standup paddleboarding is at the top of the fun workouts list in its own right. But throw in a few yoga poses, and it becomes a full-blown physical challenge. You can research a few poses online before you hit the water, or consider signing up for a local paddleboard yoga class. You’ll be surprised at how much you use your core and all those little stabilizer muscles throughout your body to stay upright as you move through your flow!
8. ROCK CLIMBING
Even if you live in a region with a super-flat landscape, you can still get vertical—and work up a serious sweat—by visiting a local climbing gym. Choose between top-rope climbing, which allows you to climb higher on the wall since you’re secured with ropes and a harness, and bouldering, which is done closer to the padded flooring and doesn’t involve ropes. If you’re up for the challenge, consider booking a rock climbing lesson or tour outdoors, too.
9. TAKE A DANCE CLASS (OR JUST DANCE!)
Even if you’re not the most coordinated person on the planet, signing up for a dance class or a dance lesson will help you move your body without realizing that you’re exercising. Whether you’re into hip-hop, tango, two-step, shuffling or some other style of dance altogether, you’re sure to find tons of studios, clubs and ballrooms offering lessons and classes near you.
Pro tip: Too nervous to dance in public? Crank up your favorite playlist at home and dance your heart out in the kitchen!
10. JUMP ROPE
Remember those days in gym class when everyone tried to master double-unders? You can bring back some of that childhood nostalgia and get your heart pumping by jumping rope. Head to your backyard or set up in a room in your house with a tall ceiling, then crank some upbeat music and jump away. It’s harder than it looks, but it’s seriously fun.
11. TEAM SPORTS
Check out the website of your city or county recreation department to find team sports leagues near you. Whether you’ve always wanted to try playing kickball or you hope to dust off your old volleyball from high school, there are tons of options when it comes to rec league sports. With games regularly held on weeknights, you’ll be able to exercise and meet new people from your community—while still keeping your Saturdays and Sundays free.
Here’s a list of sports to consider if you want to make exercise fun:
12. RIDE A BIKE
You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to have fun—and get in a good workout—while riding your bike. And don’t worry about buying a special cycling kit or shoes. Simply lace up your sneakers, put on your helmet (safety first!), grab a water bottle and start riding. Pedal at a leisurely pace for as long as you feel like riding, or challenge yourself with a few mini-sprints or uphill climbs. If riding outside doesn’t work for you, consider trying out an indoor cycling class.
Trampoline fitness, also known as rebounding, is a fun and unique workout trend that involves hopping on your own mini trampoline while following the movements shown by an instructor. Don’t be fooled: These classes are tough! They’re high-energy, paired with fun music and lots of other people around having a good time. You can find these classes at gyms and workout studios near you. In fact, trampolining has been shown to ensure positive effects on overall health.
Pro tip: Have a bit of extra space at home? Purchase your own personal rebounder, learn a few basic moves and let your body take the lead—no gym necessary. Plus, there are tons of virtual trampoline fitness classes you can stream from home or your backyard.
14. PLAY ON THE PLAYGROUND
When was the last time you played like a kid? Head to your local park, then go wild on the playground—swing from the monkey bars, go down the slide, play tag with a friend, run up and down the stairs. You won’t even notice that you’re working out while smiling from ear to ear.
Does hiking or walking feel unengaging to you? As far as different workout ideas go, birding is definitely one to consider. This low-impact activity will help you get moving on a mission while searching for birds. Simply keep your eyes and ears open as you walk, looking up at the sky and down into bushes and shrubs. If you see or hear a bird, stop for a few moments to observe and listen to it. Enhance your engagement by downloading apps like Merlin Bird ID on your phone, or bring along a notebook for writing down or drawing pictures of the birds you see.
16. POWER WALKING
If jogging isn’t your thing, consider power walking, instead. This fun exercise strikes the perfect balance between taking a leisurely stroll and going for a run. Simply walk quickly, pumping your arms naturally as you go. Power walking can be a great activity to do with a friend or while listening to an audiobook!
17. GROUP FITNESS IN THE PARK
Working out alone can be boring and unmotivating. However, joining a group of people can make exercising feel more like a party than an actual workout. The outdoor setting also feels more fun and lively—and presents some unique challenges—compared to working out in a gym. Search for free or low-cost group fitness classes held at your local park.
Pro tip: Staying hydrated is critical! Be sure to bring plenty of water, as well as bug spray and sunscreen so you can set yourself up for outdoor fitness success!
18. DOWNHILL SKIING
Though downhill skiing may seem like something you can only do while visiting the mountains, there are actually ski areas all over the country in some pretty surprising places. Some are outdoor, but others are actually indoor ski and snowboard facilities that use manmade snow. (What a time to be alive!) Skiing and snowboarding are great physical activities that test your endurance while helping you build strength in your legs, core and even your arms. If you’ve never gone skiing before, consider taking a lesson to help you feel more confident on the slopes—wherever you are!
Pro tip: Vibration training is a progressive recovery tool that can support your whole body following rigorous exercise like downhill skiing. No matter if you’re a first-time skier or a seasoned pro, it’s never a bad idea to think about recovery.
19. MARTIAL ARTS
There’s a reason why experienced martial artists are in incredibly good shape. Martial arts like karate or jiu-jitsu are full-body workouts that engage both your body and your mind. Sign up for a fitness-focused martial arts class at your local rec center or join a special martial arts gym to get started with this discipline-dependent physical activity.
20. POLE FITNESS
Try something totally different and sign up for a pole fitness class, which is a unique workout that combines pole dancing with exercise. You’ll strengthen your core, arms and legs as you try to balance on a metal pole connected to the ground and the ceiling. These fun exercise classes are great for inviting friends along, too.
21. TRAPEZE, CIRCUS OR AERIAL SILKS
Looking for a fresh and fun way to stay fit? Learn how to fly through the air or stabilize yourself in the folds of silk fabric by signing up for a trapeze, circus or aerial silks class. Ever tried tightrope-style slacklining? Not only is it a blast, but it can strengthen your core and lower body. These low-impact skills are challenging, yet engaging, and you’ll be sweating in no time—without really feeling like you’re exercising.
Whether you’re treading water in the deep end of your apartment pool while your kids play or you’re crushing a round of freestyle laps at your local recreation center, swimming is an awesome full-body workout that’s easy on your joints. Plus, it’s enjoyable exercise you can do year-round, thanks to indoor and outdoor pools. So, no using the weather as an excuse to get out of this one!
23. PLAY GOLF (OR VISIT THE DRIVING RANGE)
Book a tee time, grab a buddy and hit the green. Commit to getting those steps in by skipping out on the cart and walking the course. Don’t have time to play 18 holes? Buy a bucket of balls and spend an hour at the driving range. Lucky for you, these days, you can also incorporate fun physical activities like golf into your social life by visiting popular facilities like TopGolf.
HOW TO CHOOSE A FUN WORKOUT
As you can see, there are tons of unique fun exercise ideas to choose from. But, where to begin? Start with either fun physical activities you feel passionate about or unique workouts that immediately intrigue you. Consider renting equipment and taking a lesson before investing in your own gear and trying to learn on your own. An experienced instructor can help you understand how to use the equipment, as well as how to participate in the activity. You’ll likely have more fun if you take the time to learn about what you’re doing first!
DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR DIET
Even if you’re doing fun workouts at home and trying new forms of exercise, it’ll be difficult to unlock your limitless potential if you don’t take care of your nutrition. Combining a well-rounded workout routine with a well-formulated diet will help you stay disciplined and push you closer toward achieving your fitness goals. Whether you follow the ketogenic diet or another popular eating approach, you want to feel energized when it’s time to break a sweat.
And remember: If one unique workout doesn’t inspire you, you can always move on to the next. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how to make exercise fun, so if at first you don’t succeed, try again… and again… and again!
Your mind and body will thank you later.
Want to challenge yourself to spend more time in nature, instead of staring at a screen? Try these fun outdoor activities that anyone can do!