Explore your fitness options and nurture a love of movement.
By Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
Fitness isn't just a plan you embark on, along with a diet, to lose weight. It's a lifelong love of movement that will help you maintain good health and the physique you want. We've compiled some workout routines and ideas to help you along your way.
These recommendations will help you evolve your workout routine and activity plan. The theme is picking something you love doing, and nurturing your feelings every step of the way.
After you read through these workout options, consider journaling to explore your fitness habits, desires, and goals.
Level One: Workout Ideas and Recommendations
If you feel uncomfortable going to a gym, a 10-minute walk, twice weekly, is an excellent first step toward better fitness. If you enjoy and can afford it, get a regular massage as well. Consider buying a good beginner's exercise tape, too. (A tip: rent exercise videos from your local library and try them out to see which you enjoy.) Another great activity is gardening, an underrated form of stress reduction and exercise.
Get in touch with your physicality by using a Jacuzzi or sauna after a cool shower, or just by taking a bubble bath. Afterward, try some gentle stretching, perhaps followed by another cool-down shower and Jacuzzi. A facial is another good way to reconnect your physical and mental being.
If you feel daring, consider karate, a dance class, or bowling. Enjoy the activities you pick, but don't make yourself continue with them any longer than you want to; for instance, don't force yourself to bowl three games if you feel like bowling only one. Remember that your goal is to make yourself healthier and fitter by nurturing yourself and reducing stress.
Level Two: Workout Ideas and Recommendations
Think about bowling, softball, or any other type of entry-level team activity. Many people who aren't natural-born athletes love team sports because of the combination of exercise and social interaction. (Mall-walking groups offer the same benefit if you're looking for something less strenuous.)
If group activities aren't for you, start a walking routine, two or three times a week, for 15 to 20 minutes. If you feel like it, jog for a few minutes during each walk. Do a few jumping jacks, sit-ups, or push-ups -- along with stretches -- in the morning before work. Jump rope with your kids or buy yourself a Hula Hoop. Take an in-line skating class, or start going out dancing occasionally with friends.
Dance, tai chi, and yoga classes are enjoyable, low-stress fitness activities. Also, consider buying several exercise tapes and try out fun activities including biking, swimming, horseback riding, or even a regular game of Frisbee with your dog.
Focus, above all, on giving yourself permission to enjoy your physicality. If you can, start getting regular massages. If you belong to a gym, don't feel you must do a strenuous workout every time you're there. Try going occasionally just for the enjoyment of stretching for several minutes and then taking a Jacuzzi, steam, or sauna bath. You'll learn to reconnect with your physicality and rediscover your body as a source of pleasure.
Level Three: Workout Ideas and Recommendations
By choosing the right exercise program, you can make your natural athleticism work for you. Avoid heavy-duty exercise programs that trim off inches for a little while but may not work in the long run because they can cause burnout.
For long-term results, find activities that you enjoy, instead of merely choosing those that burn calories. You probably already know some of the activities you do and don't like, so select those you prefer and drop the ones that bore or stress you.
For instance, are you starting to dread your usual five-mile run? If so, give yourself permission to take a leisurely bike ride or swim. Too tired for a 30-minute workout? Exercise for 15 minutes, and see if you feel like continuing. And if you find yourself setting harder and harder goals ("I need to run an eight-minute mile"), reconsider your priorities. Remember that getting regular, moderate exercise is smarter and more effective than forcing yourself to do grueling workouts that can lead to injury or burnout.
You might enjoy the challenge of participating in a run or bike race for charity -- a great way to get exercise while meeting new people and helping your community. You might even want to train for a half-marathon, if running is your favorite activity. Just be sure to make fun and stress reduction -- not calorie-burning -- your top priorities!
Level Four: Workout Ideas and Recommendations
Keep up the good work! Your goal is to establish a healthy, pleasant exercise routine, intermingling challenging activities with peaceful and relaxing mind/body experiences. If you find yourself getting bored, vary your exercise routine with creative new activities. For instance, if you're tired of jogging every morning, try taking up kickboxing, spin cycling, in-line skating, even a jazz dance class. Spicing up your exercise routine will motivate you to stick with it.
No matter what level of activity is right for you, concentrate on nurturing yourself through exercise. When you do, you'll feel good -- and when you feel good, you'll stick with your fitness plan.
Some days, that plan might lead you to be the first person at the gym or to sign up for a challenging fitness run. Other days, you'll be found at the spa, getting a massage or stretching for a few minutes before you take a leisurely walk. It may seem hard to believe, but all of these activities are active ways of achieving true and lasting fitness.
So forget "no pain, no gain," and focus on the joy of swimming, walking, skating, belly dancing, or even Jacuzzi-ing your way to better health and a trimmer body. Expand your definition of exercise to include any activities that help you relieve stress and "connect" your mind and body -- and make a commitment, based on self-love and self-affirmation, to make exercise a priority in your life. When you do, you'll see your excess pounds and inches come off more quickly and effortlessly.
Most of all, remember that combining a variety of workout routines and ideas can help keep your exercise program interesting so that you'll be more likely to stay on the road to lifelong better health and fitness.
For additional information on starting an exercise program and choosing a workout routine read Fitness 101: The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Exercise and What's Your Workout Personality?.
Published February 2006.
SOURCES: WebMD University Course "Your Fitness Options" with Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD. Portions of this page copyright 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
©2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.