Other Ways to Get Your Exercise

Variety is the spice of life, and exercise comes in as many varieties as you could want. Whether it’s walking, tai chi, tennis, gardening, or swimming, the key is to find something you enjoy and keep doing it. (Having a few options to choose from so you can vary your routine helps.) Here are a few fun, inexpensive ideas to try:

Exercise Balls

One of the hottest exercise trends to hit the country in recent years involves nothing more than a brightly colored, oversized plastic ball. Physical therapists have been using these giant balls for years; finally they’re available to the rest of us. The balls are used in a variety of exercise moves and routines to improve vour balance, coordination, strength, flexibility, and posture, primarily by helping you strengthen your body’s core muscles: the abdomen, back, and sides,

The balls trump other exercise routines for numerous reasons, says Liz Applegate, Ph_D., author of Bounce Your Body Beautiful: Sia Weeks to a Sexier, Firmer Body. They’re portable—you can even deflate one and bring it with you when you travel; they are attractive, so you don’t have to “hide” it in the basement; and they’re efficient. For every exercise you do, the rest of your body also gets a workout. They’re also inexpensive, starting at around $25. You can buy vour ball from sporting goods stores, shop online at sites such as, or call 


If you’re looking to simultaneously strengthen your muscles, become more flexible, and improve your posture, look to Pilates. One of the latest fitness trends, Pilates is embraced by movie stars and professional dancers, who value its integration of mind and body and its ability to help them maintain a lean shape. It was developed by a German man named Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century as a way to regain his strength after he spent much of his childhood as an invalid. It focuses on using the body’s core muscles to support you as you move through large ranges of motion. Many Pilates exercises require only an exercise mat, although some utilize large pieces of equipment involving pulleys, (For access to these, you’ll need to sign up for a class. Look for a certified Pilates instructor—many are not certified—by logging onto The “mind” portion of Pilates comes with the intense concentration on the quality of the highly controlled movements, For a Pilates workout you can do at home, check out these videos:

  • Pilates for Dummies,” with Michelle Dozios. A good, basic workout for beginners.
  • The Method, with Jennifer Kries. This is a series of videos, both for beginners andcthose who have done Pilates before.
  • Stott Pilates —Advanced Matwork,” with Moira Stott-Merrithew, one of the gurus of the Pilates movement. This is for a more advanced participant,


Bands Remember as a kid how you would stretch a rubber band against your index finger and fling it across the room at your brother? Well, the same concept is at work with exercise resistance bands, only there’s no flinging involved, and it’s not your index finger that gets the workout but nearly every other muscle in your body. Resistance bands use your own bodyweight instead of dumbbells to provide resistance. Generally, you slip a band around your foot or arm and lift or extend the limb, working against the band’s resistance. You can also secure the band to a door or bar. The bands are not only portable, they’re cheap: You can find them in sporting goods stores for under $15. They come in different lengths and degrees of resistance. The shorter bands are used to strengthen hips, ankles, wrists, arid hands, while longer bands are best. for legs and arms. Both are usually color coded: Yellow provides the least resistance, followed by green, red, blue, and black. For a good video introduction to using the resistance bands, check out “Denise Austin—Pilates for Every Body.” (The makers of Exercise Your Options On the Live /t Down Pian we recommend at least 30 minutes of brisk walking on most days of the week, but you can substitute any of the following activities. They are all considered moderate exercise—defined by the U.S. Surgeon General as anything that burns an average of 4 to 7 calories per minute. Washing and waxing a car for 45-60 minutes. Washing windows or floors for 45-60 minutes. Playing volleyball for 45 minutes. Gardening for 30-45 minutes, Wheeling self in wheelchair for 30-40 minutes. Bicycling 5 miles in 30 minutes. Dancing fast (social) for 30 minutes. Raking leaves for 30 minutes. Water aerobics for 30 minutes. Swimming laps for 20 minutes. Basketball (a game) for 15-20 minutes. Bicycling 4 miles in 15 minutes. Jumping rope for 15 minutes. Shoveling snow for 15 minutes. Stair-walking for 15 minutes. Source; Surgeon General’s report on Physical Activity and Health, 1996 the video call it a Pilates workout, but true Pilates does not involve resistance bands. ) A number of other toning and strengthening videos incorporate resistance band exercises into their routine.

Moving Without Exercising

Exercise doesn’t have to involve equipment or even a special time set aside in your day, Any kind of movement that increases your heart rate provides benefits, That includes everything from house cleaning to dancing to gardening, as long as you accumulate at least 30 minutes of such activily per day.

if your hobby involves being physically active, perfect! Just consider the workout you get from gardening. Between edging and raking the lawn, walking back and forth to the mulch pile, pulling weeds, digging holes, and planting seeds, gardening uses all of the major muscle groups. And half an hour of general gardening burns about 202 calories in a 185-pound person. One study even found that gardening could reduce insulin resistance, a condition that could lead to metabolic syndrome or diabetes, both of which significantly increase your risk of heart disease. It’s even been suggested that urban gardens be used to improve public health, not only by providing fresh produce, but also by providing exercise, To get the most out of gardening, nix the gadgets that make it easier, such as electric weed-whackers.

In addition to gardening, simply eschewing convenience devices like remote controls and garage-door openers can make a big difference in terms of the calories you burn and your overall amount of physical activity.

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