If you hate to exercise, losing weight can be challenge. After all, there are only so many "no carb" diets a person can stomach before succumbing to temptation and devouring that second slice of stuffed-crust pizza. And the gym—with its rows of greasy treadmills and overly enthusiastic Zumba instructors—is enough to make any self-respecting couch potato want to run (er, walk) for the hills. Unfortunately, if the goal is to lose weight, you're going to have to muscle up (ha!) the motivation and face the dreaded 'E' word eventually. We recommend the following.
Take a yoga class.
Yoga is an ideal way to incorporate physical activity into your life for three reasons: it's relatively painless, you get to wear fun clothes, and the end of each session is basically a nap. While none of these activities will burn as many calories as a higher-intensity exercise, a regular yoga session will help you develop strong, lean muscles while increasing mindfulness and body consciousness. Research has also shown that yoga helps reduce levels of the stress hormone Cortisol. Scientists have found that when rats had high levels of Cortisol in their systems, they tended to self-medicate by eating more. Sound familiar? Even worse, calories consumed during times of stress often go straight to the stomach. So if you're looking to lose the belly fat, increasing your weekly dose of Zen may help.
Venture into nature.
The best way to survive a workout is to not think about it, which can be tough when you're stuck on a stair climber with only a daytime talk show to distract you. By moving the workout from the gym to a state park, nature preserve, or even the city park around the corner, you can distract your brain with new sights, smells, and scenery. You'll be so busy admiring the views, you'll barely even notice you're burning calories in the process (About 500 per hour-long hike is the average). What's more, hiking has been shown to decrease anxiety, stress, and blood pressure; increase creativity, and improve memory. So, the next time you go for a walk in the woods, don't think of it as exercising—think of it as providing food for the mind and spirit. Because, hey, if can't you feed your hungry stomach, at least you can feed your hungry soul.
Embrace your inner child.
Ask a kid if he likes to exercise, and he'll probably tell you, "No way." Ask a kid if he likes to play tag or dodge ball, however, and his reaction will likely be more enthusiastic. That's because, for kids, "exercise" and "fun activities that happen to involve exercise" are two different things. If you want to lose weight, you can start by adapting a similar mind-set and finding ways to make physical activity exciting. Visit a trampoline gym, where you can practice backflipping into foam pits, or relive your middle school years by taking friends ice-skating at the local rink. Do something completely out of the ordinary, have fun, and laugh a lot. Studies have shown that laughter can boost immunity, lower stress hormones, decrease pain, and relax your muscles.
Learn a new skill.
Another great way to make exercise more enjoyable is by learning a new skill. Do something where the focus is on gaining a new expertise and not on physical exertion. There are a number of specialty gyms that offer classes in aerial yoga, kickboxing, pole fitness, rock climbing, or adult gymnastics. Mastering a new talent like a back handspring, for example, will not only make you feel more accomplished, but it may improve your mental and emotional health as well. Researchers believe that learning can help you live longer and can lead to an increase in happiness levels. Plus, if you're happy, you'll be motivated to make decisions that are good for you: like swapping the French fries for fruit slices or spending the day at dance class instead of on the couch in front of the TV.
Try out a workout at home today! Our sister site FitnessMagazine.com has FREE streaming workout videos for every part of your body. Check it out!