September is a popular time of year to return to the gym, hit some new classes or attempt a new diet. We tend to repeat the same habits and struggle with the same obstacles at different times of the year.
The kids are going back to school so it is natural to feel empowered for change. You have structure back, the daily regime resumes, so there is a small window of opportunity to put your health and fitness to the front of the queue.
Don’t make the same mistakes! This year, why don't you try a different approach and instead of looking at exercise as a gruelling necessity, look at it as a fun opportunity. Fitness does not have to be a chore unless you really are completely allergic to any form of activity.
Whether you are cleaning your house, running after the kids, doing a spot of gardening or burning a few calories on date night, there are plenty of ways to get trim without taking out a gym membership.
Here are forty ways you could stay in shape without even noticing. Talk to your friends and family and see if you can set a new trend and form new habits this year! What have you got to lose?
Before you try anything make sure you are fit and healthy, consult your doctor if you are not sure, and approach each activity responsibly. These are ideas, not suggestions, only you know what is right for you, your targets and your body!
Grab a pair of skates and hit the tarmac. All you need is a nice smooth surface so you can show-off your backwards skating and slick turns.
There are a few options on the market from the outdoor trampoline that you can steal time while the kids are at school and mini trampolines for indoors. If you are bouncing you are burning calories, add stunts to the mix and a few friends and you have got a workout.
Not a cheap activity but for people who love horses it is an impressive workout. The core stability and conditioning involved in maintaining balance on a horse as you trot and even canter really is hard work.
If you don't want to invest in equipment for climbing then scrambling is a lighter version. You can also scramble without equipment though a helmet is advisable. Look for scrambling level 1-2 tracks for a trek with some climbing and challenging terrain in.
There are so many different treks available out there that every adventure could be different. You can opt for a long trek, a steep trek or a mixed bag. Research your route thoroughly and take plenty of water for a fun day outdoors in almost all weathers.
Taking the plunge into murky waters is not everyone’s go-to but if you love swimming and you have a wetsuit to hand then this is an exhilarating way to stay active. There are plenty of lakes, filled in quarries, outdoor pools and coastline where outdoor swimming is catered for and encouraged.
They usually form a big chunk of our childhood but once we get to a certain age suddenly sports fade into non-existence unless you join a team. But, not everyone wants to join a team. Talk to your friends and family and see if anyone wants a kickabout. So what if you are not a child or not competing professionally, you are still allowed to kick a ball around and both Rugy and Football are great calorie burners. If you want to improve your couch to 5k then throwing in some running that doesn't feel like running can be a big boost.
I honestly think these are two of the most interesting sports that we abandon in our teens. You don't have to form a team, you could just go and shoot some hoops. There are plenty of courts around these days - in the UK we are spoilt for choice. Throwing a ball, getting some fresh air and trying to dribble it past your mate is good exercise but more importantly, it is a ton of fun too!
You don't need to dive into Tough Mudder or sign up for any races. I am talking about assault courses that adults can enjoy in their own time. There are group sessions available on a few and you can also find monkey bars, tyre stations and nets to climb around the UK. It is like a playground for adults that takes no casualties and if you love a bit of outdoor adventure this has to be right up your street.
This is not just any bike ride. Get yourself down one of the dirt bike tracks or mountain biking tracks that litter our woodland areas. You can go down as fast as your Grandad on a zimmer frame or build up confidence and fly down (always wear a helmet and consider protective clothing if you are starting to travel at speed). They are often deserted and you can put some serious work in when you walk up to the top so you can go again!
There are plenty of activity centres where you can rent a kayak or a canoe. Rowing at your own pace in an expanse of water is relaxing and dare I say mindful. If you like the sport then you can invest in an inflatable kayak. There are open water areas that allow watersports and even canals and other stretches of water that offer peaceful settings to row your stresses and calories away.
It is a conditioning exercise but there are other hobbies and sports that are similar like axe and knife throwing. Essentially you are walking to collect arrows, using a considerable amount of body strength and enjoying some time outdoors. Even a cheap archery set and playing with the kids' counts as activity.
It goes without saying that we are not encouraging you to go and fall out of trees! It is another activity that we do when we are fearless kids and then suddenly one day we turn the age where tree climbing is frowned upon. I am not sure why that is. It is a conditioning activity and teaches coordination and works the core - why would we stop doing that?
There are some playgrounds that are kiddy sized so won’t be suitable. There are others that cater for adults so we are talking swings, monkey bars, A-frames, balance beams, and possibly these days a section full of exercise equipment as well. This is not a structured workout session though - this is play. You want to be active but you want to have fun so grab a friend, find a quiet playground and bust out some moves unashamedly. If you fig bodyweight exercises then, of course, there is a world of pull-ups, hanging leg raises and upside-down crunches there for the taking.
It took the world by storm and rightly so. A functional form of exercise that encourages you to vault fences, jump upstairs, climb walls and get adventurous with your surroundings. There are varying levels of commitment involved depending on your skill level. There is nothing stopping anyone clearing a few steps and vaulting a few railings. Try it out and YouTube some guidance. It is likely more fun in numbers but don't be shy.
This is one of those ideas where you might need a fair bit of space...away from onlookers so you don't feel silly! These use games like tag in Bootcamp classes around the nation but you suggest a game of tag to your friends and they are likely to suggest you seek therapy. There are ways of doing it - potentially show them this list first, warm them up to the idea that it could be an accepted form of fun exercise. Once you have worn themselves out playing tag and realised it is actually just running with a lot of sharp turns, then you can build up to other playground favourites including: Capture the flag, hopscotch, piggy in the middle, jump rope, British bulldog (we do not condone rugby tackling participants - a tag will suffice).
The quintessential British sport. You can either brush up on your Cricket rules or just aim to hit the ball and catch people out. You need someone who can bowl in a straight line but the rest is just running, catching, throwing and staying active for as long as you fancy.
Another great sport that we tend to shy away from until Wimbledon is on and then everyone fancies themselves a Williams’ sister or the next Federer. Again, you don't have to play by every single rule but tennis is a great all over body workout especially when you try and smash some serves over the netting and return fire. There is a lot of lateral movement and you can try it with your left hand if you fancy a giggle.
I used to play this all of the time with my sister in the garden. The washing line was our net and the conifers frequently stole the shuttlecock from us so we got through a lot of those! We used to aim for scoring sometimes but often we would just try and keep it going for as long as possible. You do not need an indoor court and badminton net to get a couple of bats and get into a decent game of badminton. You can always hire a court if you want to take it to the next level - the grip and speed of returns will certainly keep you on your toes.
So, rounders you get one ball to hit with a rounders bat. Once (if) you hit it you set off round the four posts to score a run and if you don't make it you can stay on a post and wait to finish the lap when the next person bats. With scatterball (it’s less known sister unless you played it at school) you get three balls and a bucket in the centre of the pitch to return them all to. So the batter hits three balls and has to make it all the way around the posts, otherwise, they are out. You will need two teams so it is a bigger commitment but a great sport we just don't play enough of once our school days are over.
This has become the latest trend to hit outdoor water. It is great for core stability as you balance on the board while you row from a standing or kneeling position. You can hire paddleboards fairly easily and you can also buy one at a reasonable price. Harder on choppy waters but a great challenge and a nice way to mix up your outdoor activities. You can also lay flat on a paddleboard and use your arms to paddle of course so there are options for every level.
Swing Ball - Another toy you lived on as a child, well I did! It adds a bit of competition to the mix too. Adult swing ball is a lot scarier because we hit that ball with some force. It is good for hand-eye coordination and if you have an evenly matched partner to play it with you can work up a good sweat. A fun outdoor option that is affordable and portable.
The indoor sport of pace and power. You need decent hand-eye coordination for this one and your reactions will certainly be tested. You can tone it down and go for a leisurely session where you smash the ball between you for a decent workout. Or, you can score and get super competitive. As with any sport, there are tips and tricks, it is not all about speed and power. Those in the know play a technical game but it always comes down to reactions so have some fun with an exhilarating pastime.
You should be able to find a local climbing wall not too far away. It is amazing for upper body strength and core stability. Resistance training is one of the best for long term weight loss and climbing will combine strength with elements of cardio. If you are afraid of heights then go for a shorter wall. I genuinely believe we all need a bit of hang time in our lives - it is good to relieve the tensions of being sat in front of a desk or the bent over positions involved in manual labour. Stretching out the body and using those lats will hurt at first but it will be great for your posture and mobility.
These have cropped up all over the place. If you have dodgy knees then be careful in a trampoline park. Otherwise, you are literally just enjoying yourself and seriously wearing yourself out. You can bounce for so long then I would suggest a tea or cold drink break! It is perfect for core stability, leg strength and cardio. This great benefit to the body is teamed up with the rush of bouncing like there is no tomorrow. Bouncing just makes people happier!
Dodgeball - you can play dodgeball one on one or with small teams or large groups of people. Ideally, you need a spacious indoor area free of obstacles but you could use an enclosed garden, garage or local community hall perhaps. I would make sure you get proper dodgeballs that are made to bounce rather than smash off faces! You can add in a no face rule if you want to keep that nose looking pretty (who wouldn’t). A fast-paced game that is fun and now an official adult sport so there is no need to feel silly playing it.
Swimming - This has always been championed as one of the best exercises for the body and nothing has changed. It is great for rehabilitation and putting minimal pressure on the joints of the body. It is cardio in nature if you get a sprint on but is also great for endurance. Set yourself a target and increase your lengths each week. Try different strokes to mix it up and also develop different parts of the body.
Dance is such a blanket term for a truly vibrant area of exercise. Whether you fancy Zumba, salsa, street dancing or break dancing there is something to satisfy everyone. The range and depth of dance means that even without a great deal of rhythm you can move your body to music in some genre. It is all about expression and freedom which is something we don't often do enough of as people. If you are really bothered about groups or showing yourself up then bang some tunes out and dance around your living room. You will burn calories and feel lighter and happier about life - I promise!
This is slightly more costly these days but there is still the option to hire skates and go for an hour of ice skating. It uses the core a lot as you are making sure you stay on your feet heading in the right direction. You could also get good at it and decide to buy your own ice skates which are sharper so tricks and speed can really come into their own.
This could have been several exercises because martial arts are really varied and again there should be something to suit everyone. If you want to use their power against them consider Judo, Jiu-Jitsu and Aikido. These are clever martial arts that will burn a ton of calories and provide a big tactical element to physical contact that won’t punch you in the face either (win-win!). If you like the art of attack and fancy kicking and punching things then look at Karate, Kickboxing, Taekwando. Great fitness and you can choose whether you wish to spar or just stick to pads, bags, forms and drills. Then there are the more circular, fluid movements of Kung Fu, whether you choose Shaolin, Wing Chun, or even Tai Chi, you will learn more fluid attack and defence combos. They all equate to a great all over body workout - the question is what style of martial art suits you? There are many not mentioned here that are just as valid and worth your research.
Rowing or Biking - Indoor rowing and biking require equipment as they do outdoors too. You can stick a turbo trainer on your outdoor bike so you can cycle indoors. You could also sign up to a gym or attend a spin class. Rowers are not cheap so again you could invest in one if it really makes your heart sing or sign up to a gym. I have added them in because there are options for indoor use away from the gym if this is your favourite hobby throughout summer. Rather than shelve your best form of exercise it is worth considering a bit of upfront investment so you can carry on rowing while you watch the latest box set on TV.
I put this separate to martial arts because it has really gained popularity over the last 5-10 years. Wrestling is a superb all over body workout that you just need a partner to train at. Ideally, you will get some professional guidance before you start jumping from the sofa onto your mate but essentially it is a safe hobby that will burn so many more calories than you expect. It is not hugging - try it - you will realise what I mean!
Do you remember when you were a kid and all you were really interested in was what you could climb on (is that just me?). Climbing is a great past time whether you opt for an official climbing wall or just start scaling indoor spaces. It is a little like indoor parkour. If you know any farmers who might have a few hay bales stacked indoors then you have the holy grail of indoor climbing right there. These options are all about being willing to explore and shed that adult facade to bring a little fun and activity into your world.
People who are good at handstands often have a pretty awesome physique to go with it. Now we can't all be champion handstanders but we can try. The effort of standing on our hands, holding the body strong and still (partner assists can help here) and trying to find that balance spot or your centre of gravity, is just pure calorie burnage. You will try and fail but keep trying and you will sculpt your core, shoulders and arms into a new you!
When was the last time you did a forward role? Or a cartwheel? There are a lot of fun and basic gymnastic moves you can perform before you need to attempt a backflip. There will be classes if you think you have just discovered a long lost dream of being an impressive gymnast. It is all about flexibility and muscle strength so handstands, headstands, and forward/back rolls with your mates could be your new found hobby and a throwback to when nothing scared you and every floor was an opportunity.
Video games that involve you sitting for long hours staring at a screen won't do a great deal for you (unless they actually do enhance reaction times and coordination?). I am talking about interactive Wii, or Xbox Kinect games that get you up and dancing or doing exercise in disguise. Games where you dodge obstacles, jump longs and duck to avoid beams. What you are actually doing is squatting, plyo jumps and lateral twists but you just don't know it! Ideal exercise in your own living room.
At first, it will involve picking up a lot of balls (or what we call squatting/deadlifting) but soon you might be able to keep them all up. It has a nice feel-good vibe to it once you start getting good at juggling. There are a lot of progressions, four balls, five balls, clubs, clubs on fire, hoops, juggling on stilts! You will be in a circus in no time! It is a good workout if you can do it for long enough - one of those that is harder than you realise.
This gives you a whole host of areas to perfect depending on what you like best. You will be stood using your body to try new skills - that counts as activity. So try stilts, the diabolo, tight rope walking (you can buy slacklines cheaply), plate spinning, ladder, trick-cycling, yo-yo, unicycle. That is the very essence of exercise you cannot do at a gym. Challenge yourself to think outside of the box and add a bit of variety to your evenings.
A favourite for women and commonly accepted now as a form of exercise since aerobics classes took the idea and ran with it. Yes you can hula hoop, no you cannot with your daughter’s hula hoop because it is too small! Make sure you get a larger hoop and look into weighted hoops which are commonly used for fitness. A great activity to do in front of the TV if you have the space. Make sure you go in both directions and end up with a rock-solid core! Enjoy!
Learn a musical instrument - I am sure you think I have gone one step too far now. But, some musical instruments are heavy for one thing and take a bit of core strength to hold for long periods. Even a flute or violin involves arm movements and being stood. That is far more active than sitting on the couch. If you get good and start to put more passion and energy into your music playing then I genuinely believe that qualifies as exercise. It is also good for the soul and one of those pastimes we never make enough time for as adults.
That is your 40 exercises. I will be going through them with a friend and ticking each one-off. If there is one thing I think everyone needs it is more fun. Not just fun but that ability to take life less seriously and find something that makes you feel light and free. I hope at least one of the above has resonated with you and you discover something that puts a smile on your face and adds another layer of activity to your life.