The Unworkout: 7 Ways to Get Fit Having Fun

Enjoy exercise that doesn't feel like exercise

By Leanna Skarnulis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Ann Edmundson, MD

Has working out become too much like work? Or does just thinking about working out make you want to go lie down? You know you need to move to burn calories and get fit, but mustering the motivation is another matter. And if you're not feeling motivated to work out, chances are it's because you're not having any fun.

The No. 1 reason people say they don't get regular physical activity is lack of time, says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) in San Diego. Yet, he adds, "we'll find time to do what's enjoyable."

The good news is that you can get fit by playing, says Charles Swencionis, PhD, co-author of The Lazy Person's Guide to Fitness: I Get All the Exercise I Need Walking Around the Office. "Forget about 'This kind of exercise does that', and 'That kind of exercise does this,''' he says.

To remind yourself of the fun in physical activity, just watch your pets -- or your children.

"I have a parrot who's in terrific shape," Swencionis says. "He's like an Olympic athlete compared to me. All animals are naturally active. Kids are, too, unless they're prevented by their parents or circumstances."

To help you put the fun back into your fitness routine, fitness experts who spoke to WebMD had these seven suggestions:

1. Make play your workout. Remember begging your mother to let you stay outside five more minutes? Whatever you were doing -- playing catch, jumping rope, or riding your bike -- it was too much fun to quit. The key to fitting more activity into your life is rediscovering that joy of movement.

"If you have children, play backyard games like tag, hopscotch, and capture the flag," says Bryant. But you don't need kids to play. Shoot hoops. Go swimming. Play tennis, volleyball, badminton, croquet, or golf.

2. Put on your dancing shoes. Not the sporty type? Dancing is a great way to get fit, and there's a type to appeal to everyone: ballroom, country and western, salsa, African, folk dancing, square dancing. You don't even need a partner; try belly dancing, hula, clogging or tap dancing.

One of the latest (and most strenuous) physical fitness crazes is Capoeira, a blend of dancing and martial arts. "It was developed by slaves in Brazil who weren't allowed to have martial arts or weapons," says Swencionis. "So they developed a martial art that came from a part of Africa that's now Angola. It looks like dancing, and it's all done to music. They turn on their backs and heads using moves that could either be dancing or kickboxing."

3. Go on a treasure hunt. Take the whole family (or a group of friends) on a geocaching adventure. Geocaching is a hot new adventure that involves using a handheld global positioning system (GPS) to find a hidden cache of trinkets and a logbook. It's not as easy as it sounds, and cachers add new twists all the time. For example, an item that's labeled "hitchhiker" is supposed to be carried from one cache to another. (Mr. Potato Head is a well-known hitchhiker.)

Getting to a cache is half the fun. It can be as leisurely as a walk in the park, or can require expertise such as rock-climbing ability. All you need to get started is a GPS device (about $100). Information, including geocaching etiquette and cache locations in and around your ZIP code, is posted on geocaching web sites.

4. Train for an active vacation. Ever thought of doing a wine-country bike tour, escaping to a ski resort, or living out your dream at a fantasy sports camp? These are the kinds of vacations you'll never stop talking about. But whether you come away with fond memories or a pulled ligament can depend on how well prepared you are. To prevent muscle soreness and injury, train before your trip (using the upcoming vacation as your inspiration). Do general strength, cardiovascular, and flexibility training, including exercises that target the muscle groups for your sport.


"Tired of your routine walk around the track? Walk to the park instead, and fly a kite."

5. Spice up a dull routine. Tired of your routine walk around the track? Walk to the park instead, and fly a kite. If you're bored with the treadmill or elliptical trainer, spice up your workout with multimedia. Clip a tape or CD player to your belt, get audio books from the library, and enjoy "reading" while you work out. Or set up a portable DVD player and watch a movie.

6. Try something new. Go horseback riding. Try inline skating. Join in a community trash pickup. Build houses for Habitat for Humanity.

7. If you love a challenge and want to see real results, sign up for a civilian boot camp. Dave Johnson of Austin, Texas, generally keeps fit by running alone. But when a friend urged him to enroll in CPT Luke's Total Boot Camp, he was game. The month-long boot camp met three nights a week, and (except for the mosquitoes) Johnson found it highly motivating. "There's a big difference between thinking I have to get out of bed and run, and knowing that I paid money and people expect me to be there," says the 48-year-old engineer.