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Exercise OptionsWhen it comes to fitness routines, people tend to fall into one of several categories: 1) Diehard habitual gym rat; 2) Mostly regular workout participant; 3) On-and-off again exerciser; and 4) Non-exerciser. While we know that regular exercise confers a ton of physical and mental benefits, many people don’t do it, unfortunately.

Part of the reluctance to exercise may be due to images of grueling sessions in the weight room, intense intervals on the treadmill, or painful jumping around in a group ex class. The idea of gasping for air, sweating buckets, looking bad and feeling worse doesn’t motivate most individuals. People can be intimidated by health clubs, uneasy with the discomfort exercise elicits, unsure what to do or restricted by injuries, nagging pain or just feeling woefully out of shape.

The reality is that exercise doesn’t need to be brutally punishing every session, leaving you exhausted and sore. While you definitely must challenge your body to get fit, and this can be uncomfortable, every workout mustn’t be an all-out, do-or-die regimen that saps your energy.

Today, the popularity of HIIT, CrossFit, indoor cycling, boot camps and training with sleds, tires, battle ropes and plyometrics, can mislead people that all workouts must be highly rigorous. The reality is that there are lots of options for exercise – and they aren’t all in the gym – that provide benefits.

The important thing is to do something, and find activities that you will perform consistently. If you’re not eager to kick your own behind all the time, no problem. Mix up exercise sessions, and give yourself permission for kinder, gentler routines. What matters is moving and challenging yourself in multiple ways – sometimes working really hard and sometimes going a bit lighter and easier. In the long run, this variety not only can keep your body healthy and strong (and less likely to be injured), but also can maintain your motivation and adherence over the long haul.

Here are a few options to consider in expanding exercise options:

  1. Get outside: Dress for your climate, of course, and use common sense in hot or cold weather extremes. Getting out of the gym can reinvigorate workouts, whether you are walking, running, bicycling, hiking, inline skating, skiing, or playing tennis or golf. Fresh air and natural scenery are motivational so that workouts are more enjoyable and may inspire you to go even longer.
  2. Take a new class: Evaluate the group ex schedule at your local gym or rec center, and commit to trying something different. If you’re intimidated by Zumba, grab a friend and commit to getting your merengue on. Instead of killing it in Power Yoga, try a restorative or gentle class. Or take ballroom dance, Tai Chi, scuba diving or pickleball. You may surprise yourself, and the change will be something different for your body. Resolve to attend several sessions at least, and don’t quit after just one class.
  3. Try aquatics: If you have access to a pool, wet workouts are totally different. Take swim lessons, join a Master’s Swim program or participate in water classes. These aren’t just for your grandmother anymore – today’s aqua line-up includes deep water running, cycling, barre, HIIT and floating fitness mat regimens like yoga.
  4. Create a home gym: You don’t have to invest a ton, but even purchasing some Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells and bench, a stability ball and some resistance tubes can give you lots of options for home workouts. If you can, purchase a cardio piece as well that you enjoy. Or try exercise DVDs or a streaming workout service that keeps you moving with minimal equipment.