Fitness For People Who Hate Exercise

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Yes, the other “you know what” made the list.

Finding a workout routine that can keep you healthy and in shape is difficult — after all, for many of us, working out is a tedious task, made worse by exercise that is uninspiring and repetitive. While some people get a runner’s high, the rest of us get an attack of boredom. If you’re not a fan of exercise to begin with, exercising on an elliptical machine is simply going to feel like a chore, rather than a heart-pumping journey towards health.

The key to finding a good workout routine is finding forms of exercise that don’t dull the senses. Exercise with another purpose can distract you from the fact that you are forcing your body to work hard, and you can finish a workout without thinking about the actual effort you had to exert.

Obviously, some people can jump on a treadmill and get lost in their own thoughts, but others have to struggle to stay on task. Here are some exercise ideas that can get you in shape without putting you to sleep.


Photo by Joe Shlabotnik.

Boxing gyms are in plentiful supply around the country, and you don’t necessarily have to spar with anyone to burn fat and calories. There are group classes that can hep you hone your posture and jabbing techniques, and you never have to face down anything scarier than a punching bag. Of course, if you want to learn how to spar, you can join a gym. Or start your own Fight Club. Mind you, you’ll never be able to talk about your fight club (Rule #1 of Fight Club), but at least you’ll have some awesome scars to show for it.


Boxing is a great way to take out your aggression after a particularly bad commute home. It’s an excellent cardio and upper body workout. If you chose to spar, wearing a mouthguard will allow you to keep most of your teeth.


There aren’t too many cons to boxing, although if you don’t wish to continually pay money to attend classes, you may need to invest in a punching bag for your home. These can be found, cheap, on Craigslist.

Rock Climbing

Photo by terren in Virgina.

Rock climbing is a great cardio and muscle workout that focuses your mind on survival, rather than the actual exercise. Because your entire goal is to avoid falling from a wall, you don’t have time to check your heart rate or your reflection in the mirror. Rock climbing is a great sport for women, because so much of the work relies on leg and abdominal strength, as well as flexibility, rather than raw arm strength. Many climbing gyms offer affordable introductory classes — keep an eye out for online coupons that offer even cheaper rates.


A couple hours of rock climbing can burn as many calories as running, and much of that time is not even spent on the wall, but rather sitting on the ground and contemplating the routes on a wall or cave. Even though it’s an individual sport, climbing can be a good way to meet people, because climbers love to offer advice to each other.


You’ll need to start out at a gym, rather than in the great outdoors, and a gym membership may be necessary. Solid, safe equipment is key, and can cost a few hundred dollars upfront. Gym memberships can range from reasonable to ghastly, but many gyms do offer free memberships to people who are willing to belay (hold the rope for) other climbers. Ask your gym what kind of deals can be worked out.

Team Sports

Photo by Dawn Huczek.

Team sports are a great way to meet people, socialize, exercise, and find an excuse to drink beer. Most large cities are rife with intramural adult soccer, basketball, ultimate frisbee, and softball leagues. Seattle, which is chock-full of hipsters, also has a fair number of kickball and dodgeball leagues, which can be lots of fun. Rugby is also a great sport if you are serious about beer and learning to swear like a sailor.


Team sports keep you motivated, because people depend on your presence to play the game. Team camaraderie can be a great motivating factor, and other players can give you tips. Plus, team fees are usually much cheaper than a gym membership.


Depending on where you live, sports can be seasonal, so you may need to pick up more than one in order to stay exercising year-round. Also, games are often only once a week, so you’ll need to practice in between to stay fit.


Photo by Brooke Anderson.

I can’t even look at a canoe without it tipping over, but lots of people find canoeing to be a wonderful, low-impact sport. If you have a love of the water and want to find a way to spend more time outdoors, consider a paddle sport. Also, do read this article about the art of canoeing. Although aimed at men, it’s funny for everyone.


Canoeing and kayaking make for good upper-body and ab workouts while allowing you to see some lovely sites.


If you are prone to motion sickness, a day at sea on a kayak will only help you lose weight through losing your lunch. Also, purchasing and storing equipment can be a challenge for some people. Keep and eye out for used equipment online and in the print ads.


Photo by lululemon athletica.

Yoga may seem intimidating or even a little hippie-dippy, but it has been popular in the West for a long time now. The benefit to you is that there are so many varieties of it now. It used to be that you could only find one kind of yoga class, and copious Om-ing was usually involved. Now there’s hatha, Bikram, pregnancy, tantric, and slackline yoga (this is yoga practices on a slightly slacken rope — no kidding!). Yoga classes are held indoors and outside on the beach. There are so many different ways to stretch and get fit in this practice, there’s no reason not to try out the different types to see if you can find one that fits your needs.


You don’t need much equipment — just a mat and a towel, and sometimes a bottle of water. You can alter the yoga workout to fit your needs. So many studios are open around North America these days that you should be able to find some stellar deals on the classes themselves.


It can be disheartening to take a class with people who are so free of body fat that they completely levitate off of the mat. It can be a good intro to look for the “Yoga for All Bodies” type classes if you feel a bit nervous about your shape when you first get started.


Photo by Richard Taylor.

There are so many different types of dance class that you can take, the possibilities are nearly endless. Modern, tap, ballet, ballroom, flamenco, hip-hop, tango, swing, line dancing, clogging, square dancing, South Indian…you name it, you can probably find a class somewhere. Dancing is great exercise, and a perfect way to get fit without thinking about getting fit. You’ll be too busy perfecting your steps to worry about how many calories you are burning. You can take lessons with a partner, but lots of classes allow you to show up alone, as well.

Aside from lessons, going clubbing is a good way to burn hundreds of calories in a night. Just take it easy on the drinks and lose yourself in the music.


Not only does dance provide an excellent physical workout, it hones your sense of balance and might help alleviate any leftover adolescent clumsiness (which tends to stick around forever). Plus, how many people know how to tango? Dancing is an impressive skill.


Dancing looks easy, but it’s not. It’s common for the first year of dance lessons to be an exercise in frustration, rather than just exercise. Don’t expect to be twirling around the ballroom instantaneously. There’s also the chance that you really hate dancing and would rather die than step foot on the dance floor. Consider a couple of classes to see if you can alleviate your fear, but don’t push it if you know you’ll simply be miserable the whole time.

Some dancing styles require special shoes, and this can be an upfront expense.

Martial Arts

Photo by Mike Baird.

There are so many martial arts to choose from, but most encompass a broad practice of discipline, respect, bodily and mental control, and a hearty workout. Punching and kicking the air for a few months might seem strange at first, but the yelling and ki-ai-ing involved in tae kwon do and karate can be incredibly therapeutic.

Learning with students of varying ages and abilities is both inspiring and humbling, and of course, you can pick up some awesome self-defense moves.


Most martial arts schools will issue you a uniform, so everyone else will look equally pajama-clad.


You have to wear pajamas, like everyone else.

Roller Derby

Photo by Bob Jagendorf.

If boxing seems a little too tame, you might want to consider careening around a track on roller skates while other people try to knock you over. Roller derby has enjoyed something of a renaissance of late, and although you don’t have to be a tattooed mega babe to try out for your local league, it’s a good place to hang out with tattooed mega-babes. Roller derby is an intense cardio workout, but you don’t have time to think much about it as you dodge your teammates and the flying fists of your opponents.


Like other team sports, roller derby is full of social events. Also, having cheering crowds attending your exercise regimen can be a real thrill.


Social events take up a great deal of time, to say nothing of the league meetings. Derby is not for the shy.

Fencing/Sword Play

Photo courtesy of Qrodo Photos.

Fencing is a solid workout that requires lessons and training. It’s also heart-poundingly exciting, and makes you look like a true blue-blood (if you care about those kinds of things). Getting started in fencing isn’t cheap, but it’s a sport that you can take up at almost any age. Plus, you can say French phrases without sounding any more pompous than usual.


It’s exciting! You get to stab people with swords!


The initial cost of equipment can turn some people away, but like most sporting goods, fencing clothing and supplies can be purchased used online for cheaper than new.


Photo by Mike Baird.

Walking might seem like a fairly boring way to get fit, but it’s as good a workout as jogging, and there are plenty of things you can do to make it more exciting. First, many people find success when they walk while listening to their favorite, energizing music. If Lady Gaga is your secret shame but her music moves your feet, put all of her tunes on your MP3 player and walk around the neighborhood. Walking the dog is a good excuse to get out and about.

Another way to make walking more appealing is to find a good place to walk. Parks, urban trails, beaches, and country roads all make for scenic and quiet places to contemplate nature or get lost in your own thoughts as you tread along. If you live within a couple miles of your workplace, walking to and from work is an option that gives your workout purpose.

Of course, you could always take up a sport that includes copious amounts of walking, like golf (pricey) or frisbee golf (much cheaper). Geocaching is a popular hobby that gives real meaning to your walking. You can solve puzzles and collect tokens, and the game of it all drives you forward.


Walking is one of the cheapest ways to get a good workout. It can done alone or with friends.


Sometimes you have to drive until you find a place that you want to walk around. Also, winter months make finding time to walk alone a bit treacherous, especially in dark, isolated areas. Always carry your cell phone and a can of pepper spray if you are walking alone.


Photo by Monique.

Oh, what the hell, you’re a nerd anyway, right? Of course you are. Otherwise, you’d be at the gym. You’ve probably already got your twenty-sided die and your duster all ready for this weekend, so why not consider your Live Action Role Playing as a part of an exercise regime? Of course, this really depends on your flavor of action, but plenty of LARPers end up tramping around the woods — it’s like hiking, but without the expensive gear from REI. If you can manage to get together a couple of times a week to larp, you can be fit as a fiddle in time for the next Renn Faire.


Those familiar with LARPing already know the rules; just amp it up a notch for a better physical challenge. Role playing is fun and a good way to socialize while indulging in an escape from the dullness and stress of everyday life. Larping is time-consuming, but it means that you can enjoy hours of physical activity without noticing that you are getting exercise.


You are a nerd.

Have you found alternative ways to stay fit and healthy? Tell us about your workout routine in the comments!


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