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The Benefits of Alternative Exercise

Let’s face it, we all have struggled and been burnt out from going to the gym, leading to us skipping a day and then we feel guilty about it. However, skipping the gym does not mean you have to skip out on your physical activity for the day. There are many types of physical activity and alternative exercises you can do without going to the gym. Some examples are hiking, gardening, walking, rock climbing, fishing, kayaking/canoeing, and so much more. Each of these alternative exercises can improve stamina, strength, flexibility, coordination and neuromuscular development, and motivation.

Stamina is beneficial in stress relief and cardiovascular improvements. Cardiovascular health is extremely important because the heart is a vital organ. When building stamina, you are improving resting heart rate, heart function, blood flow, lowering risk of heart disease, can help control high blood pressure, and builds tolerance to exercise. Hiking can be a great example to build stamina because if you are hiking uphill, it increases heart rate which increases your systolic blood pressure and breathing rate rapidly, ultimately increasing blood flow to the muscles, providing oxygen and producing energy for the muscles to continue the activity. Alternative exercises that use more upper-body physical activity, such as rock climbing, produce a higher increase in systolic and diastolic blood pressure along with more cardiovascular strain than from leg activity. This is because the arms have smaller muscle mass and vasculature which causes greater resistance to blood flow. Health Benefits of Exercise ( this is a great research article that shows how physical activity affects cardiovascular endurance along with how physical activity connects with health effects.

Strength can be built in many different exercises, although some activities may improve muscular strength in one or two particular areas of the body more than another. For example, kayaking is great for building muscle in the arms and activates the core, however it does have limited leg movement, therefore the legs are not getting muscular improvement. Benefits to muscular strength training are, increasing bone strength which is important as we age, reducing fall risks and injuries, and can help develop good posture. Gardening, believe it or not, is a great way to build strength, especially in the arms and hands. My grandma has been gardening long before I was even born and she is extremely strong and in good shape with a lot of it being the result of gardening. Those weeds can really make you work!

Flexibility is an important factor in order to stay healthy because it can improve range of motion of joints; it prevents strain on muscles, tendons, or ligaments when exercising or doing basic daily activities; can improve posture and balance; prevents joint aches and pain; and improves physical performance, whether athletically or for regular daily activities. A great alternative exercise that can enhance flexibility is tai chi.

Coordination and neuromuscular development are important especially for older populations because improving coordination can inhibit fall risks and also keeps the muscles and brain stimulated. When using coordination skills, the core muscles are being engaged which is extremely important in keeping the body strong and functional along with enhancing proper muscular posture. The majority of physical activities activate the core and challenge coordination skills, some particular ones being yoga, dancing, biking, and hiking.

Motivation can be so hard to build when it comes to exercising. However, a lot of alternative activities are done through intrinsic motivation, meaning it is done out of enjoyment and more as a hobby rather than doing it for physical fitness achievements. For example, hiking may be more motivating than a run on the treadmill because you get to be outside and have beautiful scenery throughout the hike.

Exercising and improving health does not always mean you have to get up at 5 am in the morning to go to the gym. It can be something enjoyable, fun, and even easy! It could be finding new hiking spots every week with your dog, planting and maintaining a vegetable garden, or even just learning self defense for your own safety. The key is to maintain physically active while enjoying yourself and making healthy life decisions. There are so many benefits to staying physically active. You develop stamina which is great for cardiovascular health, improve flexibility which can help joint pain and range of motion, build strength for strong muscles and bone health, along with developing better coordination and neuromuscular skills. So if you can’t make it to the gym this summer, remember there are other fun alternative activities you can do that can still improve your health!


Megan Wilmot

Personal Trainer, The GYM @ Milford

-Megan attended Westfield State University and her major was Movement Science. She finishes her ASCM certification in June 2021.

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