On Tuesday, ABC news reported something everybody knows: regular exercise is beneficial for a variety of reasons. But exercise can also be really lame. Even after losing 50 pounds, the thought of a long jog under the California sun (and the sweaty back, aching knees, and side cramps that go with it) doesn't motivate me to go outside. Nonetheless, moving around is an important part of a healthy life, and there are some non-lame ways to go about it. Here are four examples to get you started.
1. Disc Golf
Humans have invented some really cool stuff in our time on this planet. Bacon, rock music, and PolicyMic are all good examples. I would put disc golf in the same category. Like the name suggests, disc golf is similar to traditional golf, but way more fun. It's played on an 18-hole course and the object is to hit a target with your disc in as few throws as possible.
Between walking the three to four mile distance of the typical course and repeatedly throwing a disc around for two hours, you can burn as many as 900 calories. You can also strengthen your muscles, increase your flexibility, and improve your concentration as you develop a throwing technique and navigate obstacles on the course. Additionally, there's very little expense involved. Discs range in price from $7-$15, and most courses around the country are open to the public and free to use.
If you thought John Bonham was a bad ass just because he played drums on your favorite Led Zeppelin songs, you're wrong. The man was also probably in great physical condition, because drumming is as demanding as any sport, according to a 2008 study. Researchers from the University of Gloucestershire followed Blondie drummer Clem Burke on tour; they found that during a typical performance Burke exerted himself at a level comparable to a long distance runner or pro football player. He burned 400-600 calories an hour and his heart averaged 140 to 150 beats per minute.
According to Marcus Smith of the University of Gloucestershire, Burke "is no different [than] the Olympic athletes I have worked with." So instead of an expensive gym membership or fancy pair of running shoes, go buy a cheap drum set and play along to your favorite songs. Oh, added bonus: drummers are sexy. When's the last time anybody's said that about long distance runners?
Admittedly, walking is nowhere near as awesome as the last two entries. But it's unquestionably good for your health, and there are ways to make a long walk interesting. Bring a friend along and have a good conversation or listen to an audio book. If that still isn't appealing, any kind of low-level aerobic activity will do. Gardening, yoga, throwing a Frisbee around are all good examples.
People who engage in this sort of exercise may be less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, die of heart disease, and suffer from colds less frequently. Research has also shown that moderate exercise is a good way of managing depression. Perhaps the best part is that you only have to dedicate three to five hours a week to any activity in this category to experience the benefits.
A lot of activities could be considered "play," volleyball at the beach, throwing a tennis ball for your dog, a game of tag with your kids. There is certainly some overlap between playing and the activities described above, so the aforementioned health benefits apply here as well. But regular play has added benefits, and not just for children.
As psychologist Stuart Brown points out, play exerts a profound impact on our brains, even as we age. He argues that play is an evolved behavior that was key to our survival as a species, and notes that there is a strong correlation between playful activity and success in life today. There's still much research to be done in this area, and we don't know for sure how play impacts our lives. But there's certainly no harm in it.
We often think of exercise as a tedious but necessary habit. Not so. There are a lot ways to go about it, and many of them are incredibly entertaining. The only requirement is that you move around and do it often. Now, go outside and have fun.