What comes to your mind when I suggest exercise? Going to the gym? Jogging around the neighbourhood? These both are great ways to exercise, but much like with diet, one size doesn’t fit all. I actually never run or jog for exercise. Not only do I find it incredibly monotonous, but I also have difficulties with joint pain due to my low-arch support. If you don’t enjoy the exercise you are doing, then what’s the point in doing it? What will be the likelihood that you will stick with it on a regular basis? This is a problem many of my clients have faced. Exercise has become a bland, almost black-and-white word where it only involves a select few activities. Due to this, I’d like to explore some other methods that aren’t always considered. This should help change the way you think about exercise!

Pilates & the Resistance Band

Pilates I remember first hearing about perhaps around 2000 or 2001. In Pilates there is a lot of focus on toning the body through what can be called core exercises. Expect to give your lower body a great workout! Pilates offers you a good workout and a new way to strengthen your body using easy methods that work great.

You’ve probably seen the resistance band in aerobics videos and other things, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t provide a good workout for your muscles. I’ve used the band before and it is fantastic to use in your strength training if you do multiple reps; you will really feel the burn in no time. Likewise, you can add it to your regular aerobic workout for great results.

Both Pilates and the band can be done at home through a video instruction if you’re short on cash (I’ve found both for cheap just by googling Pilates dvd or resistance band dvd) or don’t have a place near you that goes through either.

While still somewhat on topic, my alma mater, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition sells a great fitness DVD that runs through a number of aerobic exercises. Likewise, I found a nice routine for a total body workout using the resistance band thanks to About.com.

Martial Arts

There’s more to it than breaking things and giving muggers a flip over your back! Even if you’re intimidated by the intense self-defence demonstrations you always see, there are still sport arts that offer a great workout. Because finding a school for self defence can differ from finding one just for a good workout, I am only going to focus on the latter here.

Muay Thai (aka Thai Boxing)

Thailand’s national sport; I studied this art for 4 years at the renowned Princeton Academy of Martial Arts in New Jersey and it is one heck of a workout! Muay Thai will really push your endurance to the max and you’ll just keep pushing it a little farther when you train. If you’re already in at least somewhat decent shape, Muay Thai will definitely help you keep up the momentum and give you an amazing workout. In Muay Thai, you use your legs, knees, elbows, and fists; so this will work your entire body and will also toughen you up. Muay Thai may be a ring sport, but it’s also one of the only ones that will also keep you relatively safe on the streets as well.

Wushu

Wushu is like a Kung Fu ballet. Wushu is based off of a number of ancient Chinese Kung Fu arts, but unlike Kung Fu, it is not meant for self defence and you will not learn martial applications. In Wushu, you learn various routines – or forms – which look much like their Kung Fu cousins except they dip lower, jump higher, and are more acrobatic and stylish. Believe it or not, martial arts film star Jet Li has always studied wushu and does not practice Kung Fu.

Wushu is great because of the routines that one learns. When you’re not in class, you can easily practice these forms daily and it will give you a great cardio workout; especially when you do one form right after another. Wushu is fun, competitive (many schools participate in performance tournaments and it almost made it into the Olympics), and if you’re afraid of sparring like in Mauy Thai, this is a great alternative.

It’s important to note that in China, they call Kung Fu “wushu” since it literally means “martial art”. Therefore, some schools in America may call what they do Wushu, but it is really the self-defense oriented Kung Fu. If you’re uncertain as to which of these a school teaches, you can contact them and just ask if their Wushu is competitive, or for combat.

“Cardio Kickboxing”

Cardio Kickboxing is simply the movements of basic kickboxing (kicking, punching, and usually some bouncy footwork like in boxing) but run on a cardio program so that you’re guaranteed to sweat. Most people know that this is just for a workout, but I have seen people that thought that their Tae Bo made them a force of self defence. Much like Wushu, Cardio Kickboxing should not be misinterpreited as something that will teach you street defense. Yes, you’re better of with it than without, but it’s still nothing compared to the real thing.

Cardio Kickboxing is not a singularly defined program like others, so your experience may vary from place to place. Generally, expect lots of repetitive kicking, punching, and lots of moving. This certainly makes for a good workout. Due to its popularity and simplicity, Cardio Kickboxing is something you can even find follow-along DVDs to learn and practice with. This is good for the person with the erratic schedule that finds it hard to make time for a regular class each week. However, if you know what your schedule will be, I suggest taking this one in a class that meets regularly since that will help guarantee you stick with it.

Taiji

Taiji (which is the current way to romanize the Chinese word more commonly known as Tai Chi) can also be a good form of exercise despite its slow movements. Taiji is great for anyone with physical problems that need to take it slow which means it’s good for people of all ages and it’s also one of the least-intesive workouts you can get. Despite the slow movements, Taiji encourages you to get outside and move and that’s what’s important!

There are some nice bonuses as well: Taiji helps Diabetics with their blood sugar, and it’s good for self defence (yes really).

Wii

There are a lot of people that have already picked up on this one. The Nintendo Wii, with its motion-sensing controls, has spurred development of many fun casual games (like the included Wii Sports) as well as some fittness-based games as well (Wii Fit). It will run you around $250, but the cost is worth it when you consider how exercising can become lots of fun.

Geocaching

Geocaching is like a high-tech scavenger hunt where you have to find a cleverly hidden cache. Basically, all you need is a hand-held GPS and an internet connection, and you’re set to go! To Geocache, you go to a website like Geocaching.com where maintainers of a cache will post the coordinates and difficulty level of a caches and then you plug the coordinates into your GPS and you head out to find the cache. Caches are commonly in the woods where muggles – that is, non-geocachers – won’t find them, but really, I’ve found geocaches all over the place. The fun in it for me is the seeking (the GPS will lead you really close, but you still have to use your senses to find the cache), the thrill of successfully finding the cache, and discovering all the little parks, nature reserves, and wooded areas that are nearby that I just never knew about before. Geocaching is like hiking in way, but you’re actively looking for something. If all this sounds confusing, just watch this news clip to get an idea of what it’s like.

This sport is great because it gets you outside and it’s very addicting and plus, you can do it along side of many other outdoor activities. The cost of a GPS for geocaching can vary greatly depending on what your budget is like and how much you want to invest in this sport. Prices can range from $50 on up to $150 or more! Some models I would suggest price shopping for are: Garmin Gecko 201 and the Garmin eTrex series (Legend, H, Vista, Venture, etc.). Personally, I would shop around on Amazon.com for the model that you think will suit your fancy (and wallet) best and then price shop on sites like eBay and Google for the best deal if you’re in a pinch for cash.

Of course, I suggest that you also take the time to browse through the forums and all the information at geocaching.com; it’s an invaluable resource for beginners!

Bike/Skate

Some people still have a bike or a pair of rollerblades, and others haven’t owned either since they were in their late teens. If you still have one of these or you are warm to buying one, then this will present yet another great alternative form of exercise.

Rollerblading

Having skated regularly until my very late teens, I really recommend rollerblading over roller skating. I always remembered hearing how rollerblading was supposed to be harder but the instant I switched from roller skates to rollerblades, I thought the complete opposite. Regardless of your choice, skating provides for some fantastic cardiovascular exercise. Go outside, go to a rink, or find a meetup group nearby. Just be sure to keep it regular.

Biking

When I took a vacation down to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, my girlfriend and I rode bikes along a few different paths and it was so much fun! Biking is a very flexible form of exercise that is really only dependent on the weather (should you so choose to let that stop you, that is!). You can ride a bike on a trail in the woods, along a scenic route, or just around your neighborhood. Consider the places you go to in your car that you can try going to on a bike. This may be easier for some than it is for others depending on how bike-friendly your city is as well as the distance traveled to many of your destinations.

One thing to try, is combining Geocaching with your Biking. If you have a mountain bike or a bike that can deal okay along dirt trails, then give it a shot; on many geocache pages you will find indicators telling you that whether or not it’s bike friendly. If the technological easter-egg hunt of geocaching doesn’t excite you and your city is not bike friendly in the least and you’re not sure about any scenic routes, then go to your local park. You will almost certainly find that they have many wonderful bike paths for you to enjoy.

Hiking (or just trail walking)

I’m sure most people think of a heavy backpack, a walking stick, and a steep mountain trail when I say hiking. If that’s your thing, then that’s fantastic, but for most people it doesn’t have to be this. In the time I’ve spent geocaching, I’ve found some great little parks and wooded areas that I simply never knew about before. I am sure that there are a number of interesting and beautiful parks and forests near you if you just take the time to visit them. Why go for a walk in your neighbourhood when you can get some real enjoyment from walking through nature?

Herbology/Botany

Do you know what a plantago is? This herb is one you can find in your backyard and you should recognize it instantly after seeing a picture of it. The plantago actually helps with irritation from plants and insects if you just mash the leaves up a little and spread it on the irritated spot.

I recently watched an awesome 6-part series on the BBC called Grow Your Own Drugs (it’s not available on DVD unfortunately, but you can watch episodes from it on YouTube). What I found so amazing was the realization that all these plants around us serve great purposes and we don’t even realize it! Once you understand the healing potential so many of these plants carry, it really makes you start to wonder about all of them. I now ask myself “what’s this plant? what’s its use? What does echinacea or St. John’s Wort look like?”.

Some people may find this to be a real snoozer, but it’s sure sparked an amazing amount of interest in others. “Plant spotting” may not be the thing that you first think of when you get up in the morning, but at a minimum, why not add it to your other outdoor activities like hiking, geocaching, and biking? It will add an interesting and knowledgeable layer to your exercise and so you will be able to exercise your body and your brain at the same time.

One book that has been recommended to me that should help you with plant identification is Botany In A Day.

Yoga/Qigong

Most everyone is familiar with Yoga, and many people have tried it. Yoga is something that is great for everyone because it’s low impact, you take things slow, and it helps one gain flexibility and limberness that will last a lifetime if one keeps up with it.

Qigong (pronounced chee gung) is kinda like Yoga’s Chinese cousin, historically speaking. While some aspects of Qigong can feel similar to Yoga (like the 8 Pieces of Brocade) others differ and feel like something different (Wild Goose Qigong, Taiji Qigong, Taiji Ball Qigong, etc). The slower, more medatative forms of Qigong are fantastic for health, but their usefulness in regards to exercise for weight loss is perhaps questionable. If you’re interested in trying Qigong, see about finding a school near you and visit to see how much they move. Like Yoga, Qigong will provide life-long health benefits for those that stick with it.

And in the end..

The paramount thing here is to keep up with the exercise. I have constantly stressed that throughout this article. However, the idea is to enjoy your exercise; it should be fun and you should look forward to it each day. If an activity is fun and you enjoy it, then you don’t need any more motivation to stick with it.

If you plan on doing some heavy activity, I recommend consuming plenty of high quality healthy fats from either pastured animal products or coconut since these types of foods help to stabilize energy for extended periods of time and they will keep your appetite satisfied as well. Likewise, stay away from the sports drinks, and vitamin water. All you need is high quality (that’s the key word right there) water to keep you hydrated. One thing I always have with me is a Sport Berkey water bottle that will not only filter out all the nasty chemicals in tap water (except fluoride; you need an extra special filter for that one) but you can also take water from raw lakes and streams and the filter inside is powerful enough to clean it (in case you’re wondering, I have done this myself). This makes it perfect for any activity that will bring you to the wilderness.

Lastly, make good use of the internet when looking for trails. Over at Trail Link you can find a number of trails that are in your area. They list a range of activities and even include whether a trail is good for a wheel chair.

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