Balance,  Thriving

Healthy Lifestyles: 7 Activities That Make Exercise Feel Fun

Dear Kim,

Especially seeing as I spent this past summer in the USA eating and drinking all of my old favorites in excess and not feeling so great about my health as a result, I’m currently focused on leading a well-balanced healthy lifestyle. Luckily, this has been much easier for me to stick to due to two major factors. Firstly, I’m back home in Granada, Spain where the Mediterranean diet is king. Even if we do enjoy fried and otherwise fattening tapas from time to time, it’s easier for me to eat healthy when surrounded by plentiful and affordable fresh options. Secondly, I have been focused on staying active each and everyday by doing things I genuinely find fun!

Simply being out in nature makes anything more fun!In the past, I would have considered exercising daily to be monotonous and torturous. However, this time I was determined to make a lifestyle change, not just follow a diet or workout plan. This perspective shift has been instrumental as I’m not focusing on simply how I can lose weight or how I can fulfill some other one-time goal but instead making daily decisions that are not only good for me, but fun. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still getting in challenging workouts but those only make up two or three days of my week, thus allowing them to feel fun (or at least rewarding), too. The other days, I’m fitting in one of the following activities and I’m loving it!

1.) Walking everywhere: We’ve talked before about Spaniards seem to walk everywhere, especially here in Granada where the city is quite compact. I definitely embrace this and try to factor in time to walk to and from my destination (or at least one of the directions) whenever I’m going out. I specifically don’t make any special effort to meet friends near my home and instead embrace a 15-40 minute walk to meet them. Occasionally, this feels like a chore when I’m running late and booking it to our meeting place but in general it’s a relaxing and enjoyable addition to my day.

Sometimes I even leave the house for no other reason than to walk! I love to throw on a podcast or catch up on Whatsapp voice messages from my best friend back home and just enjoy the beauty my city has to offer. This is a great way to get some fresh air and break up my day (which would mostly otherwise involve sitting in front of a computer). Additionally, it’s great for my mental health as it gives me some time to reflect and merely carving out time for myself to do this is an act of self-love that gives back two-fold.

Walking longer and longer distances actually becomes more and more enjoyable for me.2.) Going hiking: Recently, I’ve been setting aside a weekend day for hiking as well. I’m incredibly fortunate to live in a mountainous area and have the Alpujarras, Sierra Nevada, and other trails at my fingertips and so I’ve decided to commit myself to taking advantage of this more often. Planning out an overnight or day trip with a friend or loved one is a meaningful way to spend time together and easily makes the day feel like a fun adventure rather than the 3-6 hour workout it turns into.

When impressive views and good conversations are part of the package, I will happily dedicate the better part of my day to being active, something I certainly wouldn’t say about going to the gym! I even recently went on a hike right here in the center of Granada by myself and it was healthy on so many levels! Not only did I get in exercise, I took in beautiful views and Vitamin D while spending time with myself (really just with myself—no podcast or music to accompany me), which felt life a very mentally healthy way to spend a self-care Sunday.

Biking by the sea is both a workout and a joy for me.3.) Going biking: Another fun activity that always surprises me in terms of just how good of a workout it is for me is cycling. While I don’t own my own bike, renting one for a limited time (generally in four hour increments) is, in and of itself, a good motivating factor. Since I’m on a time crunch I’m more likely to peddle longer and further and rest less in between⁠—turning it into more of a workout than a leisure activity.

My favorite place to rent bikes is on the coast where we can ride along the paseo marítimo for long stretches of time, as we’ve done in Málaga. The weather is generally beautiful and the people are in a good mood. Being able to stop for lunch or a snack on the beach is also a huge perk (that generally results in staying a little later than I should and really having to go hard on the way back to return the bicycle on time)!

You might not expect it, but this video game is a real cardio challenge.4.) Playing Beat Saber: Now, I know this option can only be replicated if you fall into the niche market of owning (or knowing someone who owns) a virtual reality headset. However, this is definitely one of my favorite fun ways of working out these days so I couldn’t leave it off the list! Beat Saber is a bit like the Dance Dance Revolution of virtual gaming. The difference is that, instead of using your feet, you’re using light sabers to register your dance moves. I’m obsessed!

While it took some time to get the hang of it, my husband and I were soon breaking major sweats trying to beat our personal records. Since your score is a combination of accuracy and force, it really pays to put your whole body into it and, believe me, we literally get sore muscles playing. The music is fun and invigorating and there are plenty of ways to keep challenging yourself⁠—competing against others you know, competing on the international charts, going up a level on song, increasing the speed, etc.

Pinterest5.) Dancing: When virtual reality isn’t my reality I also love to simply dance on my own! Is it just me or do you also occasionally watch a movie with a great soundtrack during the credits that makes you want to just get up and move? I’ve had that feeling quite a few times over the years and I’ve stopped ignoring it and now I instead get up and break a move! It’s so much fun to literally “dance like nobody’s watching” and I’ll often be so “in the zone” that I continue by finding more upbeat songs on YouTube and just going for it.

You can certainly join a zumba or similar dance class or find YouTube videos that teach you different dance moves to follow along to with the intention of getting a work out. However, when I’ve tried this in the past I’ve generally spent more time feeling self-conscious about not getting the moves or timing right than really focusing on being active. When I’m dancing alone in my living room, however, it’s all action and no thinking, the perfect combination for getting my heart rate up!

6.) Using Spanish-language workout videos: Now, you can decide if this activity really falls into ‘fun’ or not, but if I AM going to follow along to a tradition workout routine I often find it more interesting to do so Spanish. I think what makes it feel enjoyable for me is that it feels like I’m checking two things off my list (exercise and Spanish practice) for the time-investment of one. It’s also both useful and amusing to learn the words Spanish-speaking trainers use in workouts.

When I choose this option I generally work out with Patry Jordan’s Gym Virtual channel and always get a kick out of how she uses some English words like ‘skipping’ but for moves that (at least I personally) wouldn’t call ‘skipping.’ If I ever did decide to join a gym workout class I know this exposure would help a lot with my ability to understand and keep up, which is a confidence boost in and of itself.

Adding something—or someone—you love to your workout plans is a surefire way to have more fun!7.) Watching a favorite show while working out: Okay, so maybe the ‘fun’ factor is going down as I get to the end of this list but I simply wanted to add one more twist on the traditional workout. Previously, watching TV while using an elliptical or stationary bicycle was something I never did as it felt like an unsuitable combination to me. However, I have recently been implementing it in moderation and it’s been a lot of fun! While it’s true that listening to music motivates me to go faster and I will generally choose a podcast that I’m happy to pause whenever I finish instead, watching a favorite TV show while working out is a great way to extend my workout time.

When working on a machine I usually go for 20-30 minutes before calling it quits (I just feel like I’ll get bored otherwise so I set those limited lengths) but if I have my (not so) guilty pleasure Pretty Little Liars on in front of me, I’ll easily keep it up for the length of the 43 minute program. On occasions I’ve gotten especially sucked in I’ve even continued on with weight-lifting and stretching for a second episode! I know this activity may not be new to everyone but it is a different approach than I’ve ever taken to my workouts and I have to say it makes it more fun as I’m thinking less about the exercise and more about the drama unfolding in front of me. Besides, it makes me feel extra good to know I got to enjoy my show without added guilt for being a couch potato in the afternoon.

Catching this unique view was just one of the benefits of getting out and hiking in my own city. What could you discover if you altered the way you looked at exercise?So, those are seven of my current favorite workouts that don’t really feel like workouts. As I said, the reason I’ve personally been able to stay active on a daily basis is because I’ve made it feel like that’s a tangible, fun way to spend my time. When we turn exercise into something grueling to simply check off our list it feels like just that⁠—a ‘to-do’ item or a chore. On the other hand, the activities mentioned above are now things that feel more like rewards to me, making me so much happier to do them!

If you’re looking to make a lasting change in your exercise routine and engage in a healthy lifestyle I encourage you to consider the activities that have worked for me but also to ask yourself “What do I already love to do and how can I turn that into exercise?” Of course, you might have to get creative depending on what you love. If your passion is eating ice cream perhaps you can look for new ice cream shops located further from your home and walk the hour there and back. Or if you simply like to watch Netflix you can challenge yourself to get in a workout at the same time. If I’ve learned anything in this process it’s to not allow obstacles to become an excuse! Don’t have any machines or weights in your house? There are plenty of household items you could lift instead and plenty of no-equipment-needed workouts to be found online! And definitely spice it up by involving others in your activities too, sometimes that’s what makes all the difference!

What fun way are you keeping active these days?


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