Exercise is not one-size-fits-all – how to figure out what works for you

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘exercise’? If you pictured workout gear and sweating it out in the gym, you’re not alone. But what if you’d rather hit yourself in the eye than hit the gym? If you’ve got a goal to get fit and improve your health, the good news is there are more options for getting your body moving than you could poke a sneaker at. The trick is to find what kind of workout works for you.

Be in it to win it

Before you start your quest to find the perfect exercise setting, take a bit of time to sit and pin down your reasons for wanting to make a healthy change. When the going gets tough and you find you’re struggling for motivation, it’s helpful to have your goals written down.

Get specific: if you’re in it to lose weight, what’s your goal loss? If you have non-scale goals – for example, fitting into a particular dress or running a marathon – write these down, too.

Then think about the ‘why’ of it all. Are you doing it to set a healthy example for your kids? Improve your overall health? Look good in your clothes – and out of them? Make it a habit to look back over these goals regularly so you can keep them in focus.

Find what you love – and do lots of it

The key to making exercise a lasting habit is to find something you really enjoy doing. While some may find a sense of purpose and empowerment when they walk into the gym, others may get their happiness in a totally different setting. To help you hone in on the best types of exercise to try first, think about some of the following questions:

  • Do you prefer to work out indoors or out in the fresh air?
  • Would you rather exercise in a group or team, or sweat your stuff solo?
  • Are you after a high-intensity activity or something a little gentler?

With these things in mind, we have a few ideas to get you started.

Steps to success

One exercise that is suitable for most abilities and fitness levels is good old walking. This gentle exercise will give your heart and lungs a good workout and strengthen your legs. Best of all? You can walk just about anywhere: on a treadmill or through a park, around the streets or up and down a shopping centre.

Pull on your best pair of runners and vary the intensity by walking faster or slower, uphill or across flat surfaces. Walking is a great opportunity to practice mindfulness, or just let your thoughts wander; you could listen to music or a podcast, or get together and walk with friends for an extra boost.

Feel like you’ve got walking under control and want more of a challenge? Running is a great way to build up even more cardiovascular strength. If you’ve got a competitive side, consider signing up for a marathon – for a feel-good bonus, you might like to run or walk as part of a charity fundraiser.

Dive into water-based fitness

There are so many ways to get your groove on in the water! Swimming is another great option for people of all ages and abilities as it provides gentle resistance while maintaining support on the joints.

Jump into an aqua aerobics class or team up with a personal trainer for hydrotherapy sessions. If you prefer to hit the pool solo, you can always pull on your best bathers and swim a few laps at the local pool, or take it outdoors: surfing will give you a full-body workout while burning a ton of calories.

Be a team player

Soccer, basketball, squash, oh my! The options really are limitless when it comes to sports and group activities.

Go full contact with football or rugby, or keep calm with tai chi classes. Lawn bowls may seem like a sport for seniors, but it’s worth a try if you’re looking for a game that will get your step count up while demanding focus and precision.

Dragon boat racing – similar to canoe rowing – will tone your upper body while delivering a pleasing sense of rhythm and team comradery. You can always stock up on your very own sporting equipment and challenge a group of friends to a friendly match down at your local park!

Think outside the box

Opportunities for exercise can be found in unexpected places. Horse riding takes endurance, core and leg strength; rock climbing strengthens the whole body; hiking and mountain climbing deliver a dose of healthy fresh air while working your heart and lungs. Got a thing for gardening? Skip the hose and water your plants with a simple watering can for an added weight challenge and bonus steps back and forth to the tap. Even housework can make a rigorous exercise sesh if you throw enough energy into it.

No matter where you start – find what brings you joy and fits in with your routine and you can’t go wrong. Once you find something you love, you’ll find that you start to look forward to workouts!

Author’s bio
Kate Gunn has over a decade of fitness experience, covering everything from home workouts to mindfulness tips. When she isn’t writing about exercise, Kate loves watching bad rom-coms and relaxing on social media.

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