Alternative ways to stay active

Everyone knows the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle, but it can be hard to find a routine to stick with. The good news: you don’t have to limit yourself to the same trek around the track or visit to the gym; varying your exercise can deliver more benefits.

“Doing the same thing day in, day out, you’ll lose interest,” says ACE-certified personal trainer Kelly James-Enger, of Downers Grove, IL. “Doing different workouts challenges your body in different ways, which makes you stronger and fitter overall. And changing up your routine can give you a new challenge.”

Whether you’re trying to be more active, or you need a change from your usual 5-miler, here are some new areas to explore.


Even if you’ve never forgiven your parents for those ballet lessons in elementary school, don’t write off dancing completely. It’s a social and fun way to get moving, with enough variety to suit every taste. You could take a class designed for fitness, learn dances you could use at a club, or explore traditional dance lessons, says Jennifer Christophel, founding president of USA Dance Tri-State Alleghenies Chapter.

“With the popularity of 'Dancing with the Stars,' adults are seeing that dance is how celebrities stay in such great shape. You don’t even realize you’re exercising,” Christophel says.

Dog sports

Instead of returning from your workout only to find your dog awaiting his chance for activity, why not work out together? Whether your pooch is a fan of tennis balls, or goes crazy to track a scent, you’ll find a dog sport to satisfy. You can sign up for lessons, join a club of other enthusiasts, or even enter competitions. While your dog might take the starring role, most sports require a healthy degree of human participation, says American Kennel Club Spokesperson, Lisa Peterson.

“There’s a sport out there for all activity levels, whether you want to run with your dog through an agility course, or walk (through) an obedience competition,” she says. “Even just getting up off the couch and training your dog to do basic commands or tricks will get you moving.”

“Aside from actually competing with your dog, there’s constant training that you do which keeps you moving on a regular basis,” adds Peterson.


This tried-and-true form of exercise is often overshadowed by other fitness trends that rise and fade in popularity. But playing tennis has always been a great physical workout and mental challenge.

“The beautiful thing about tennis is that it’s not only a sport that can be played for an entire lifetime, but it’s adjustable. From playing on smaller courts for young kids, to structured leagues and teams, to playing singles or doubles, tennis has something to benefit nearly everyone,” says Alan Klein, Chairman and President, Montgomery County Tennis Association.

If it has been a while since you’ve played – or if you’re brand new – don’t worry. There are plenty of lessons, clinics, or even week long camps designed to get adults out on the court. Or, just grab a racquet and head for a backboard to work on your stroke and sharpen your reactions.


Whether you have a passion for the outdoors or you’re just tired of being cooped up in an office, hiking is a perfect way to get outside and moving. This low-impact exercise can be altered in intensity just by adjusting your pace or changing the terrain. All you need to start is a good pair of hiking shoes and proper dress for the weather. You’ll also gain a sense of peace as you learn to relax and enjoy your journey, rather than hurrying to get to the end of your workout.

Many towns have off-the-beaten path hiking trails to get you started. When you’re ready for more, look for an area hiking club that takes organized trips.


Raking, pulling up weeds, and squatting over garden beds for an afternoon can rival any aerobic routine. Add bigger tasks, like hauling bushes or clearing a plot, and you’ll boost your fitness level. According to Weight Watchers, gardening activities such as raking and planting use as much energy as leisurely bicycling, and more vigorous gardening, such as mowing the lawn with a hand mower, was equivalent to aerobics or swimming.

If you want to couple getting fit with improving your home’s curb appeal, grab your garden gloves and take to the dirt.

As you explore different ways to stay in shape, make it a habit to remain open to change over the years to avoid boredom and to keep your workout balanced. “And don’t be afraid to try something that intimidates you,” James-Enger adds. “I’m afraid of heights and took a climbing class with my son. It was a great workout, and made me more confident too.”


— By Debbie Swanson, Tribune Brand Publishing





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