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14 New Workout Ideas That Will Make You Love Exercise

The more fun you’re having, the more you’ll want to exercise. Take the “work” out of your workout with these playful exercise ideas.

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Contributing Writer

If you do the same workout day after day, even the most inspiring practice or scenic run can start to feel stale. Not only that, your body becomes conditioned to the movement, resulting in diminished returns in strength, balance, and endurance. With that in mind, we asked experts across a variety of physical disciplines for their favorite exercise add-ons or creative stand-alone workouts. The results include fun spins on traditional movement, permission to swing on the monkey bars, and one killer bear crawl.

Stand on One Foot

“When you stand on one leg and feel that wobble, you are gathering information coming into your feet—neural impulses traveling to your spinal cord and brain, and then a volley of neural impulses coming back into your muscles to tell them how, when, and where to contract. It’s called proprioception, and it’s your body’s sense of where it is in space, designed to keep you from falling over. Proprioception is vital to how your nerves interact with your muscles, and it happens in a fraction of a second! I work on mine every morning by doing balance exercises when I brush my teeth. My electronic toothbrush goes for two minutes, so I balance for one minute on one leg and one minute on the other.” Stacey Pierce-Talsma, DO, RYT, Chair of the Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine Department at Touro University California in Vallejo, CA, and a registered yoga teacher

Bear Crawl Around

“This classic kid move engages the psoas, a vastly under-appreciated muscle that extends from the lower middle spine down to the top of the thighs. When most people do the bear crawl, they do travel across the floor on all fours with the pelvis higher than the head and with the back humped up. Instead, start on your hands and feet, keeping your hips on the same plane as your head so that your back resembles a tabletop—flat with no arch. Now drag the hips back to your heels, creating a straight line through the shoulders, hips, and knees.” –Brian Bradley, Fitness Director for Elev8d Fitness

Just Hang Out

“The next time you are playing with the kids, out for a run near a park, or taking a stroll with some friends, hop up on the monkey bars and just hang for 30 seconds. It’s a fantastic stretch for the upper body. If you can hold it for 30 seconds or longer, now you’re building up strength and creating lean muscle.” Eric Botsford, Creative Director at ToughMudder Bootcamp and a well-known CrossFit star

Related: This Home Workout Makes You Move Better, Feel More Energized, and Look Leaner!

Roll With It

“One of my favorite yoga moves is rolling back and forth on the mat. Just as you roll up, you extend both your arms and your legs as wide as you can, and then you roll back. It makes it more fun if you add Lion Pose face (opening your eyes and mouth wide and sticking your tongue out as far as you can while exhaling, making a haaaaaaa sound). It’s fun for balance, a good stretch for your face, and you can’t help but laugh at yourself—or everyone in the room if it’s during a yoga class!” –Pierce-Talsma

Try an 8×8

“There are eight core movements that work the body through a full range of motion, recruit your largest muscles, and help align your eight load-bearing joints (shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles). The movements are surprisingly simple, including “over” (jump over an object, such as a log, fence, or bench, using your hands and arms to propel yourself forward); “under” (step forward or sideways to squat as if under a low doorway or branch); and “sideways” (move laterally, in both directions, in a variety of ways, including shuffling your feet or doing a crab walk.) Elev8d Fitness Powered by Sonima offers a variety of fun workouts derived from the eight core movements. The 8×8 incorporates these moves in a quick but efficient eight-minute workout. You can try it here.–Bradley

Use Sliders

“These small, slippery discs are great for building strength and balance because they require you to engage a lot of muscles at once. Try them while doing Mountain Climbers for a solid core- and rotational core-strengthening exercise that also helps strengthen the glutes and hip flexors. For something more advanced, try the Alligator Drag: Find an area with enough room to move forward 30 feet or so. Starting in push-up position with your feet on the slides, “walk” forward on your hands as far as you can, letting your lower body drag behind you. Don’t have sliders? Paper plates can work on carpeted floors, and towels or thick socks can work on wood. This move works the shoulders, core, and glutes, and will get your heart pumping, too.” Rachel Fisher, Fitness Coach at Shift, an integrative health and wellness practice in Chicago

Get High

“Rock climbing provides the trifecta of fitness benefits: Full-body strength, endurance, and mobility. Traversing routes—both indoors and outdoors—develops coordination, grip strength, core stability, and range of motion. You’re also challenging your brain, as you have to think out every move ahead of time, so it’s an organic way to improve your problem-solving skills.” –Fisher

Experiment with the Jumpboard

“This board attaches to the foot-bar of the Pilates reformer to create the simulation of jumping. While lying on the machine horizontally, you can adjust the spring tension and ‘jump’ on the board as if it were the floor and you were standing up. It’s challenging, gets the heart rate up, and is low impact while still challenging your core, legs, and coordination. Like ballet, the focus is on rolling through the feet and landing with control. Clients can also try to hover and find their own ‘hangtime’. It’s a really fun addition to a Pilates reformer class.” –Mary Kate O’Sullivan, Master Trainer with San Francisco-based Pilates ProWorks

Belly Dance

“As an osteopathic physician, I treat a lot of patients with back pain. Most back pain is musculoskeletal and often this pain is due to muscle imbalances and lack of core strength. Often I prescribe belly dancing for my patients who need more core work. It utilizes core strength and core control in order to move the body, and brings a lot of awareness and activation to muscles that don’t get used during other activities, even traditional exercises.” –Pierce-Talsma

Be a Tourist in Your Hometown

“Explore your own city by foot or bike (or canoe, if you’re lucky enough live near water) and check out all the must-sees you’re always suggesting to your out-of-town guests. Visit museums. Join a walking tour. Hike the most scenic trail around. You’ll get your fill of cardio for the day just by moving around, plus you’ll gain a new appreciation for the place you call home.” –Rebecca Scritchfield, RD, owner of a mindfulness-based behavioral change and wellness practice in Washington, DC, and author of Body Kindness: Transform Your Health from the Inside Out and Never Say Diet Again

Try Your Competition

“My husband and I have a quick workout that really gets our blood pumping, and we try to beat each other, which adds some friendly competition. It’s called “The Tens.” You start with 10 burpees, 10 pushups, 10 sit-ups, 10 lunges, and 10 squats. Then you do nine of everything, then eight, then seven, all the way down to one. I like to time myself and see if I can get it done in record time. I enjoy this workout because it usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes, yet I’ve totally gotten a good workout in and strengthened most major muscle groups of my body.” –Pierce-Talsma

Related: The Most Effective Total-Body At-Home Workout Series

Do the Grapevine

“The Grapevine is a multi-faceted movement that can offer fantastic toning. It’s a great warm-up movement that works the quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and core all at the same time. It’s not a common thing you see your friends at the gym doing, but just put on your headphones, find 50 yards of open space, and feel the body get itself warmed-up. You’ll be in better shape for your next yoga class because of it.” –Botsford

Inject Speed Work into Your Walks and Runs

“Fartleks means ‘speed play’ in Swedish; you switch up running fast and running slow. I will see something off in the distance and run as fast as I can to get there, and once I’m there, I’ll slow my pace or walk. It’s a great way to build speed and stamina, and it makes running really fun. Similarly, sometimes I put my headphones on and hit shuffle on my music library. If a slow song comes on, I slow my pace or even walk. If a fast song comes on, I run. I often try to keep the pace of the music.” –Pierce-Talsma

Throw a Medicine Ball Around

“A super-fun exercise is tossing eight to 10 pounds or so with a friend, or even two or three friends. You can do them standing, squatting, and with sit-ups. This is a fantastic core exercise that will give you an added boost for the toughest yoga movements.” –Botsford



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