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Exercise for People Who Hate Exercise

Updated on September 29, 2008
The author
The author

I hate exercising. I really do. The prospect of doing it 30 minutes a day, five times a week like the doctors tell you is about enough to make me go curl up in a little ball and die.

Yet I also value good health and fitness and manage to stay in pretty good shape.

So, how do I do it? Partly, it's good genes. Partly, it's a (relatively) healthy diet. And partly, it's taking advantage of opportunities to sneak in exercise that doesn't feel like exercise: physical activity that has a purpose and/or is just plain fun.

Here are some of my best tricks for staying in shape without hitting the gym:

Photo by Mash Down Babylon
Photo by Mash Down Babylon

Take the Hard Way

Did you know that the average American walks less than 400 yards per day? It's no wonder we're a nation with a fat problem. Unfortunately, sidewalks, footpaths, and other ways to get from one place to another without the help of four wheels are rare in many American cities and suburbs. So what's a health-conscious American to do?

If you're stuck in a place, as I am, where it's practically impossible to get anywhere on foot, you can still increase your 400 yards per day by doing things the hard way.

Unless I'm in a big hurry or the weather is absolutely terrible, I almost always park well away from wherever I'm going. I take the stairs - often two at a time - instead of the elevator. I walk instead of hopping on the moving sidewalks in airports.

Housework and yardwork are also sneaky ways to get some extra exercise in. I use an old-fashioned reel mower on the small patch of lawn in my front yard, and on my "back forty," I use a scythe for weed and brush control. Vacuuming is another good calorie burner, and in winter time, snow shovelling the old-fashioned way, with a snow shovel, can't be beat.

Finally, walking your dog instead of letting her out into a fenced yard or run will make both your body and your dog happy.

Photo by Brad & Sabrina
Photo by Brad & Sabrina

Reconnect With Friends and Family

With today's busy schedules, time for family and friends is all too often shunted aside. Family meals are one great way to reconnect. Another is family walks.

My husband and I use strolls around our neighborhood as a time to enjoy each other's company and reconnect after a busy week.These strolls are not generally aerobic powerhouses, though we might work up a sweat if we go instead to a nearby nature preserve in the bluffs overlooking the river. However, they are enough to get the blood moving and get the emotional benefits both of walking (exercise releases endorphins - hormones that make you happy) and of intimacy with a loved one.

Another popular way to reconnect with friends is a window shopping stroll through a good-sized mall. The air isn't as fresh as the local nature preserve, and it might be a little more dangerous for your wallet, but otherwise it has the same benefits ... plus it's a lot cooler in my state's hot Midwestern summers and frigid Midwestern winters.

And of course, there is that famous and nearly universal workout, the Playing-With-Your-Kids Workout, that is too often neglected in this day and age despite its numerous benefits. It's fun, it's frequently far more aerobic than anything at the gym, and it will pay off for years to come in a good relationship with your kids. My toddler thinks its the funniest thing in the world when Mommy hops around hooting and pretending to be a monkey, she shrieks with glee over horsey-rides, she would happily play "Gotcha!" for hours, long after her Mommy, Daddy, and Big Brother are collapsed panting on the floor around her.

Calypso Cascades, a beautiful vista along one of my favorite hikes in RNMP
Calypso Cascades, a beautiful vista along one of my favorite hikes in RNMP

Find What You Love and Do It

Exercise sucks when you do it for exercise. But when you do it for fun...

Very few people genuinely hate all forms of physical activity, the trick is just to find the one you love.

I am lucky enough to have a bunch. Hiking is my favorite. My husband and I arrange our schedules so we escape to the mountains several times a year for short trips, driving or taking a train to save money and often sleeping in a tent. We take it easy the first day to get acclimated, then do 10-15 miles a day for the next two or three, drinking in the fresh air and scenery. In the wintertime, we snowshoe. We love it and it's a perfect getaway for us.

Another activity I love is dancing. Dancing is such good exercise there are entire fitness programs built around it. I studied ballet for years and years as a kid, and periodically consider trying to get back into that to get my flexibility back, but these days I mostly just turn up my iTunes and dance around the living room with my daughter. It's more fun and just as good exercise.

Swimming is number three. If the pool's not too full, I'll usually do a few laps of my favorite strokes, the breast and back strokes, but otherwise I mostly like to play shark with my husband, to see which of us can come closest to drowning the other. This is also good foreplay for another excellent-yet-fun form of aerobic exercise, though of course I don't advise trying that one in public pools.

As a teenager, I also took riding lessons and would love to get back to that, but haven't had time so far. Non-riders might be surprised to learn that horseback riding is actually excellent exercise, particularly if you're doing sports such as dressage (my favorite), eventing, or cutting.

Other fun activities with strong physical components: gardening, rock climbing, biking, rollerblading, fencing (or medieval swordfighting!), gymnastics, ice skating, martial arts, kayaking, skiing, yoga, and virtually any type of team sport.

HubMob Project

This hub was written for the HubMob challenge, week two: Fitness, diets, staying in shape and losing weight.


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    • carmellowyoshi profile image


      10 years ago

      Good hub, i enjoyed it. You are right, people don't know how easy it is to stay in shape doing the things you love.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Excercise: Isn't that a four letter word ?

    • kerryg profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from USA

      Anna Marie and Uninvited Writer, thanks for reading!

      qlcoach, I've tried meditation and can't do it. My brain just won't shut upwhen I'm sitting still. :( I hit zen state pretty quickly on walks, though - part of the reason I love them!

    • kerryg profile imageAUTHOR


      12 years ago from USA

      Ryan, I do have a good one, I can't deny, but it's benefits are mostly superficial - the size six jeans, etc. It's the other stuff that keeps me in decent enough shape to hike 18 miles in one day without keeling over dead. :) (Though there were a few moments when that was a temptation... Here's another tip - always take grapes on a hike. If you hit the wall, they'll rejuvenate you like magic.)

    • qlcoach profile image

      Gary Eby 

      12 years ago from Cave Junction, Oregon

      More great information and an excellent Hub. I have also learned to combine Yoga, Tai-Chi, and meditation for 20 minutes a day with great results. Feel free to see how I try to help others in new ways too. Sincerely: Gary Eby, author and therapist.

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      12 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      I admit it, I'm lazy when it comes to exercising :)

      Well done.

    • Ryan Hupfer profile image

      Ryan Hupfer 

      12 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Great addition to the HubMob...I'm just a little jealous of your metabolism though. :)

      Also, you're almost on the first page of Google!

    • Ryan Hupfer profile image

      Ryan Hupfer 

      12 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Great addition to the HubMob...I'm just a little jealous of your metabolism though. :)

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      12 years ago from Florida

      You are right, we do seem to have the same take on exercising! I liked this a lot!


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