While some people love going to the gym, it’s really not for everyone - for others the whole concept doesn’t really appeal to them. But there's no need to worry if that's you because it doesn’t mean that your fitness options are completely limited. With a little imagination, you can gain some amazing health and fitness benefits from alternative exercise activities like wild swimming, barre dancing, qigong and hot yoga.
If you’re looking for some alternative exercise activities to shake up your fitness routine, look no further than the list below for activities that will help you stay in shape.
What to look for
When considering what activities to do, run through the following checklist and try to choose activities that maintain and develop these components:
- Stamina - Without a doubt, this is probably the most crucial aspect of a health and fitness routine, because a healthy cardiovascular (CV) system, which includes your heart and lungs, protects you from long-term cardiac problems. This means that you should choose activities that get you breathless so that you can get a good CV workout.
- Strength - Building all-round strength is really important in helping you to carry out everyday tasks with ease and for maintaining good posture. Activities that exercise a wide range of muscles all around the body are best, as they will give you balanced and total body strength.
- Flexibility - Flexibility is an often overlooked aspect of fitness, having good flexibility means that you are supple, relaxed and are not restricted in any way for your range of movement. Also, if you are flexible you are far less likely to get injured, because inflexibility is the primary cause of soft tissue injuries.
- Coordination - If you are well coordinated, you will be able to carry out exercises - and indeed any other daily activities - smoothly and efficiently.
One of the most difficult aspects of being consistent with any sort of exercise is that if you don't enjoy it, you're most likely to give up with it in the long run - motivation will quickly wane if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. It's at this point that it becomes easy to find an excuse not to continue with your routine. So here are a few alternatives to get you started…
Wild swimming is exactly how it sounds - it's swimming outside, for example in a river, a creek or in the sea. The important thing is that there are no man-made structures. And you decide if you want saltwater or freshwater. The good thing is that it can be done in any weather, during any season and can involve long swims and short dips, lots of gear or no gear. It’s all completely up to you!
Humans have been swimming in the wild since the beginning of time. It all started with the ancient Egyptians and was popularised in Britain during the Victorian era, but doing it for sport only became huge in the midst of the pandemic, when we saw public pools and gyms being closed to the public.
Health Benefits Of Cold Water Swimming
As Roger Deakin said “natural water has always held the magical power to cure.” He was right. Swimming is a well-known healthy activity, as it is low-impact and provides numerous physical and health benefits. It raises your heart rate while removing a lot of the stress from your body. It also benefits your weight, heart, and lungs while growing muscle, and it's wonderful for endurance, muscle strength, and cardio. Swimming is also beneficial to your mental health, since it relieves stress and allows you to reconnect with nature.
Swimming in the wild and in cold water, in particular, boosts the immune system. It increases the number of white blood cells in the body, prompting it to react, and your body gets better at activating this over time. It also improves circulation and activates endorphins. Of course, it can be harmful, especially for individuals who aren't used to it, so take your time, acclimate, and understand your boundaries.
- The Peak District has some of the best river swims in the country, not to mention some of the best views too! In the Peaks, the River Dane has some of the clearest bathing. The water is clear, peaty, and cold, and it flows directly from the mountains. The plunge pools and waterfalls make it ideal for adventurers!
- The Waterfall Woods is home to one of Wales' most beautiful waterfalls, as well as 20 natural pools to explore. Lower Ddwli Falls is 20 minutes down the woodland walk, featuring a popular swimming location where people can snorkel and picnic on the edge of the water. Many tourists explore the clear waters for underwater rock formations, while braver swimmers can plunge into the enormous junction pool from the footbridge — it's an amazing spot for families and explorers.
Great and Little Bernera is Scotland's very own Maldives with a secluded lagoon in an uninhabited island off the coast of Great Bernera on the Isle of Lewis. You can reach this beach with a guided swim experience from Immerse Hebrides. They will take you by RIB boat to all the best swimming spots, and they offer swims for more experienced swimmers, as well as beginners and families. The Outer Hebrides is famous for its turquoise blue waters and there are plenty of lovely spots for wild swimming!
Barre class is a workout technique inspired by elements of ballet and yoga. It focuses on low-impact, high-intensity movements designed to strengthen your body. In addition to building strength, this full-body workout also develops agility and flexibility.
Benefits Of Barre Dancing
Barre increases strength and muscle mass while also improving flexibility. But the advantages don't stop there. Barre class also develops endurance, balance, range of motion, and promotes better posture (something we all need). As a result of these advantages: It can also help with weight loss - you'll most definitely sculpt a stronger, more defined core because of the many techniques you'll do in class to engage your abs and back.
Qigong is a mind-body exercise form that uses meditation, breathing, and movement to increase energy and enable the body to heal itself. The exercise and healing techniques used were developed in ancient China and Tibet dating back over 5000 years. It is practised for a variety of reasons, has countless health-related benefits and is founded on the same principles as acupuncture and traditional Chinese Taoist medicine.
It is a type of gentle exercise that entails repeating movements, practising breathwork, stretching, and promoting fluid mobility throughout the body. Qigong helps us become conscious of the flow of our own life force energy, or chi, through restoring the flow of energy in the body.
Benefits Of Qigong
Qigong is the perfect antidote to the effects of modern life, today's world can be so fast-paced as it runs on stress, unhealthy foods and little sleep
Physically, slow gentle Qigong movements warm tendons, ligaments, and muscles; tonify vital organs and connective tissue; and promote circulation of body fluids (blood, synovial, lymph). Thousands of studies have shown Qigong effective in helping to heal high blood pressure and chronic illness to emotional frustration, mental stress, and spiritual crisis.
Practising Qigong helps the body and mind to truly relax. In this state of calm, the body can heal itself. Many other physical benefits follow the practice of Qigong as a lifestyle including increased strength, stamina, range of motion, and flexibility. It also improves the function of the immune system, digestive system and enhances healthy sleeping patterns. Mentally, it hones the ability to concentrate which is vital for effectiveness in studying and at work.
Hot yoga offers many of the same benefits of traditional yoga, such as stress reduction, improved strength, and flexibility. But, with the heat turned up, hot yoga has the ability to give your heart, lungs, and muscles an even greater, more intense workout.
What can hot yoga do for you?
- Improve flexibility - Stretching after you've warmed up your muscles is safer than stretching cold muscles, as you may well know. As a result, a heated yoga studio setting can make yoga poses easier and more effective. You can stretch a little further and attain a wider range of motion thanks to the heat. According to a 2013 study, hot yoga participants had more flexibility in their lower back, shoulders, and hamstrings than a group that did yoga in normal conditions.
- Builds bone density - When you support your weight in a yoga pose, you're helping to build bone density. Because bone density reduces with age, this is especially significant for elderly adults and premenopausal women.
- Reduces stress - Yoga is becoming increasingly popular as a natural stress reliever. Trusted Source revealed that a 16-week hot yoga programme dramatically lowered the stress levels of stressed, physically inactive people in a 2018 study. At the same time, it increased their health-related quality of life and self-efficacy, which is the notion that you have control over your behaviour and social environment.
- Eases depression - Yoga is well known as a technique to help you relax and improve your mood. Additionally, a 2017 review of 23 different studies that focused on yoga concluded that yoga is an effective way to reduce depressive symptoms.
- Provides a cardiovascular boost - Striking different yoga postures in high heat can provide a more rigorous workout for your heart, lungs, and muscles than doing the same poses at a lower temperature. One session of hot yoga, according to 2014 research, is enough to get your heart pounding at the same pace as a brisk walk (3.5 miles per hour). Hot yoga also boosts your metabolism and respiration.