If all else fails, try thinking about the payoff of exercise as you do it. Imagine your muscles getting stronger and firmer and your blood pressure and blood glucose levels decreasing. Or consider your gym efforts training for more enjoyable activities; think about what a strong hiker or kayaker you’ll be with your gym-strengthened muscles.
How long has it been since you played a recreational sport? Do you remember enjoying volleyball, kickball, softball, golf, tennis, croquet, swimming, bike riding, or bowling in your younger days? If so, why not give it another try now? Or why not try a sport you’ve never played but have always wanted to? So what if it’s been 40 years since you’ve participated? Recreational activities are an opportunity to be active, meet new people, make new friends, and of course, have fun!
Check out your local recreation department to see what’s available. Keep in mind that if it has been 40 years since you’ve played a sport, you’ll need to start slowly and build up your strength and stamina gradually. (See “Tips for Getting Started” for guidelines on getting your body back in shape for all sorts of activities.)
Joining a team isn’t the only way to benefit from the camaraderie of exercising with others: Walking, biking, hiking, and paddling clubs regularly schedule group outings that allow participants to exercise and socialize simultaneously. Such outings additionally offer the opportunity to see new places and to be outside, in nature.
When joining an activity club, be sure to read any literature the club provides to be sure you know the rules and guidelines. For example, many clubs offer beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level outings, and you’ll want to know which are which so you’re neither straggling behind nor spending a lot of time waiting for others to catch up.
Walking is the most popular form of exercise in the United States: It’s easy, it’s convenient, it requires almost no equipment, but it can get boring. How to make it less boring and possibly even fun? Here are some ideas:
Vary your route. Make your walks an opportunity to get to know your neighborhood or your town.
Walk to a destination. Make your walks useful by walking to the store, the library, or somewhere else you need or would like to go. If you have heavy packages to carry back to your starting place, use public transportation or have someone pick you up.
Join a group, or walk with friends. Conversation and good company make the miles fly by.
Get a dog. Dogs need to be walked every day, often more than once a day, and most dogs love to walk. Let the reward of a happy dog smile be your motivation to take a walk.
Make it a competition. Setting up a friendly competition between teams of coworkers or family members can be a way of making walking more fun and keeping people motivated and moving. To get the rivalry going, divide your participants up into two teams, and make sure everyone has a pedometer. Pedometers are simple, inexpensive devices worn on your hip that measure how many steps you take each day. Instruct your competitors to wear their pedometers from the moment they get dressed in the morning to the moment they get into bed at night. Each morning, have everyone report in with their number of steps for the previous day, either by phone, e-mail, or in person, if you all live or work in the same place. The daily team tallies can be recorded on poster board and hung in a conspicuous place if the competition is based in the workplace. The winning team is the one with more cumulative steps over a week or even up to a month.