Jump for joy: finding an enjoyable way to exercise means you're much more likely to stick with it. Photo: Stocksy
I've always hated running and I find the gym boring and soulless. But there's no getting away from the fact that I need to move my body more. Could exercise actually be pleasant? Something to look forward to rather than dread and avoid?
There are many advantages to choosing an activity for its fun factor rather than its kilojoule-burning capabilities. Apart from the obvious - I might enjoy it - I figured I'd be much more likely to stay motivated and keep it up. Here are a few suggestions for sweating it out with a smile.
No Lights No Lycra is a casual, free-form dance class, in a dimly lit room, "for the pure joy of dancing", says co-founder Alice Glenn. "You work within your own constraints, and each session lasts an hour," Glenn says. "There's no age limit, either, and the music is chosen across genres so it's fun for everyone."
Apart from the obvious cardio benefits, the dim lights mean everyone can unleash their inner Solid Gold Dancer without fear of being judged.
My eight-year-old daughter accompanied me for a session. Participants are encouraged to find a space of their own on the dance floor, and are advised that it is a phone-free, photo-free and talk-free zone.
It's true that the darkness allows for self-consciousness to fall away. The whole experience is more life-affirming than I would ever have expected - exhilarating, energising and meditative, all at the same time. I walked away physically buoyed by the endorphins from the music. And the best part? I've exercised, without it feeling like an exercise session.
Leg warmers optional.
No Lights No Lycra runs Australia-wide. Go to nolightsnolycra.com.
There was a time in my childhood where my hoop was constantly around my waist. And once I got hold of an adult hoop, there was no stopping me. It was like being 13 again!
Deanne Love is the founder of Melbourne-based Hooplovers, and offers small group classes and online hooping tutorials. She says that hooping "completely restructured my posture and strengthened my upper body".
There are so many physical benefits to hooping, but it primarily works the core, so it will strengthen abdominal muscles. The fun, childlike dimension means that you can work out for much longer without feeling like it's hard work.
Love explains that an organised class combines music, movement and an element of playfulness, so it becomes a creative pursuit. This brings about a sense of achievement when a new sequence is mastered. She adds that, initially, "it was seen as a pleasure-driven activity because it was fun and cool; people didn't realise the physical benefits that come with hooping".
Try Hooplovers (Melbourne) hooplovers.com or Hoop Empire (Sydney) hoopempire.com.
Trampolining is no longer an activity limited to children; in fact, the benefits for adults are tenfold. If you want to have real fun while getting fit, trampolining will deliver.
Being a regular bouncer on my kids' trampoline, I can vouch for the fun factor on this one. When I start my day with a jump on the trampoline, I feel genuinely energised and ready to take on the day, without feeling like I've exhausted myself pounding on the treadmill.
According to Gymnastics Australia, regular trampolining, or bouncing on a rebounder, promotes balance and improves fitness. It also takes stress off weight-bearing joints, according to the US National Osteoporosis Foundation. And research done by NASA has found that it is 68 per cent more efficient than jogging: a 10-minute rebounding session being the equivalent of a 30-minute run.
I find that when I bounce I get a double dose of endorphins. A simple rebounder (or outdoor trampoline) is all you'll need. Or you can pay for an indoor session at a trampolining venue for about $15 an hour.
In Sydney and Melbourne, try Skyzone Trampoline Park, skyzone.com.au, or Flip Out, flipout.net.au.