An alarming 80 percent of Americans don’t exercise as often as they should in order to maintain optimal health, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. The reasons for this are many, depending on the person. Regardless, it’s especially challenging to stick with any workout that feels boring, tedious, and repetitive right now, when most aspects of life have ground to a halt due to COVID-19.
Yet, exercise is more crucial than ever in these difficult times. It helps to regulate the body’s stress hormones, decrease inflammation, enhance sleep quality, calm anxious thoughts and bolster immune function, according to the Journal of Sport and Health Science.
Necessary as it is though, exercise doesn’t have to feel like a “necessary evil.” Make it fun with these 10 simple ideas that encourage you to move your body, build strength and maintain better mental health.
How to Make Exercise Fun
1. Explore a nature trail or preserve
Whether you live near a forest, mountain, desert, or body of water, carve out time each week to spend hiking, walking, swimming and enjoying the scenic views. Not only does this help you stay active, but being outside decreases stress, according to Harvard Health Publishing. They explain:
“Interacting with natural spaces offers other therapeutic benefits. For instance, calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response.”
2. Turn your home into a dance floor
Dancing is an easy way to get moving—and it’s a lot more fun than running on a treadmill for 30 minutes. Crank the volume and bust out your best dance moves like nobody’s watching.
When moving your body, remember that music can also help you move through challenging emotions or feelings. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports: “Music acts as a medium for processing emotions, trauma and grief—but music can also be utilized as a regulating or calming agent for anxiety or for dysregulation.”
3. Join a recreational sports league
If possible, look to local sports leagues to move your body, prioritize a sport or activity that you love and connect with other people at the same time. If you’re not able to join any teams right now with quarantine and lockdown regulations, consider skill-building at home as a way to stay active while getting better at something that you love doing.
4. Organize a game night of charades
Invite a small group of family or friends over for a socially distanced, if necessary, game of charades. Not only is this a reliable crowd-pleaser, but it’s also a full-body workout since the object is to communicate through pantomime to your teammates.
You can make it even more active by using sports, fitness, or movement-based themes. For example, sports skills (I.E. dribbling) or types of workouts (I.E. yoga or HIIT).
5. Unroll a yoga mat and start flowing
This activity is a one-two punch for both the mind and body—the postures build strength and flexibility, while the breathwork relieves stress. Not to mention, yoga can be practiced anywhere, even on a paddleboard or an aerial swing. Choose which format works for your time-frame, budget and preferences, and then let it flow.
If you’re doing yoga at home, check out these on-demand yoga classes. They’ll help keep you on track and ensure your posture and breathing is effective.
6. Head to a local rock climbing gym
If you don’t have access to natural boulders where you live, but you love climbing, the second-best option is a rock climbing gym. While most will likely require a mask, you can still get active and challenging your mind and body.
If you can’t get to a rock climbing gym just yet, consider bringing a climbing-specific workout like this into your routine. You can focus on strengthening your body now for the next climbing opportunity.
7. Turn your commute into a bike ride
Many workplaces have started to reopen, so if you’re back in the office after months of quarantine, use your commute as a fitness opportunity. Rather than driving to work in rush-hour traffic, take the bicycle lane there instead. If you’re stuck in cold weather, turn to biking at home.
With a stationary bike, you can work out alone or follow along with a spin streaming service, like Studio Sweat On-Demand, which also hosts live classes.
8. Build an indoor obstacle course
More time at home means you get to find creative ways to beat cabin fever. Transforming your house into an obstacle course, especially if you have kids, will do the trick. Challenge yourself to create as challenging of an obstacle course as you can, requiring climbing, leaping, pushing, and pulling. With blankets, pillows, boxes, furniture and other household items, you’re a few hours away from a great at-home workout that’s also a blast to create and do.
9. Play motion-controlled video games
From Wii Sports and Dance Dance Revolution to Mario Kart Live, interactive motion-controlled video games use physical movements to direct the onscreen action. This means you can have fun while keeping your body active for hours at a time.
If you want to make this part of your workout routine, build playtime into your calendar like you would any other fitness activity. You’ll have more fun, and if you have kids, they’ll love joining along with you.
10. Create fun fitness challenges
You don’t have to create a totally new fitness routine to have fun while removing your body. If you’re a competitive person, just challenge yourself to different feats of strength to see what you can do—or better yet, challenge your friends, kids or spouse and get everyone involved.
For example, you might challenge yourself to do 100 pushups without stopping or jump on the trampoline for 15 minutes without stopping. You’ll keep your body moving while pushing your limits and having a blast. Plus, you can challenge friends and family from home, giving you something to bond over from a distance.
Exercise Can Be Fun
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, adults need 100 to 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Keep this in mind as you make fitness more fun. Choose what you love, but get intentional about building it into your routine so you can reap the most benefits.