Don’t Bother Heading to the Gym — These Workouts Are Way More Fun

For a lot of people, working out sucks. They dread it. It eats up a lot of time, is usually painful, and leaves you a sweaty, exhausted, sore mess. For that reason, they eschew exercise and working out. This, of course, leads to other kinds of unhealthy behaviors. If we avoid exercise because it isn’t fun and makes us uncomfortable, we start doing the same with food.

Before you know it, you haven’t had a decent workout in years. And by that time, you have so much anxiety around the thought of entering the gym that you might resign yourself to an early death. But there’s no reason for it. You can get in a great workout while having fun at the same time.

Unfortunately, it’s harder to do the same for your diet. You can’t really trick yourself into thinking Brussels sprouts are Oreos.

Work out without working out

A cyclist gets in a workout during the Ironman Vichy in Vichy, France

Exercise doesn’t have to be torture. | Harry Engels/Getty Images

So, what’s the trick? How do you fool yourself into getting some exercise? Well, if you hate exercise so much that you literally have to trick yourself into doing it, you may need to take some baby steps. But otherwise, there are a huge number of ways you can get active by doing something you love — or at least enjoy. We all got exercise as children, running around and having fun. Apply the same approach to your adult life. You don’t need to spend hours on a treadmill to get a good workout in. You just need to get your heart rate up and burn some calories.

And you can do that in any number of ways.

Like to ski? That’s a workout hidden inside of a fun activity, for example. Here are five other ways you can get a killer workout in, all while having fun at the same time.

1. Cycling

Commuters cycling in Amsterdam

Go for a leisurely bike ride. | Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

Of course, cycling can and does feel like a workout depending on your level of intensity. You can cycle for long distances, for instance, and you’re sure to feel the burn after a little while. But you can also cycle at a rather leisurely pace by just going for a bike ride with friends or family. You’ll be getting some exercise, but you’ll mostly be concerned with your surroundings and conversation. You can also up the tempo and go mountain biking or dust off the old BMX.

2. Swimming

man wearing goggles rest at the edge of a pool

Swimming is fun, and it burns major calories. |

Swimming is one of the best workouts you can get. You’ll end up using every muscle in your body to keep yourself going, and oftentimes, swimming can burn more calories than running or other cardio-intense activities. But even as you’re doing it, it doesn’t quite feel like a workout. You’re in a pool, after all, and being in a pool is fun.

3. Sports

Men play pick-up basketball

Go out and play a round of basketball. |

Yes, “sports” is an incredibly broad term — but that’s what makes it so great. Playing sports of all kinds is a great way to get a workout, especially if it’s a fast, intense game. Play a game of pick-up soccer or basketball at a local park or rec center, and you’ll be feeling it the next day. You can join a league, or just throw or kick a ball around with friends; either way, you’ll be working out while having fun.

4. Martial arts

Brazilians practice jiu-jitsu in Rio de Janeiro

Martial arts proves challenging, but it’s a great workout. | Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

Martial arts are similar to sports but place a little more emphasis on concentration. If you’ve done some sort of martial art — and there are a huge number to choose from — you know you can build up a serious sweat. While you’re actually training, though, you don’t give much thought to how much energy you’re expending. You’re focused on learning and mastering techniques, not burning calories. If you’ve never tried a martial art, give it a shot. It might be an easy way to get a great workout while learning something new.

5. Hiking

Hiking in the mountains

Hiking will get you outside into the fresh air. |

Nothing burns calories like taking on a mountain. Hiking is a hell of a workout, and at times, that’s plainly evident. But even if you’re moving relatively slow along the trail, you’re still giving your body a great overall workout. There are easy trails and hard trails, and if you really want to burn off some energy, head for a steep incline. You’ll distract yourself with nature and the sights and sounds while also getting in shape.