Fitness

5 exercises you'll enjoy at any age

Try these playful pursuits – you won’t even realise you’re doing a workout!

While the idea of exercise may seem daunting to some, the more enjoyable it is, the more likely you are to keep it up.

"One of the biggest misconceptions about exercise is that you have to go to a gym to do it, but that's simply not true," explains Jacci Allanson, director and head exercise physiologist at Transcend Health in Broadmeadow, NSW.

"While a gym is a very convenient way to exercise, if you're doing it just for the sake of it, the chances of you keeping it up long-term are very slim.

"The key to staying in shape is settling on something that's fun to do. "It's about finding the right activity for you, so it basically comes down to personal interest," Jacci explains.

Hula hooping

The hula-hoop craze is back – and it isn't just for kids or circus performers. It's an excellent cardiovascular workout that whittles the waist, and tones the abdominals and lower back muscles.

"It's a terrific example of a low-impact activity, where you can have a laugh while doing it," Jacci says.

However, low impact doesn't necessarily mean low intensity. "Because of all those gyrating moves, it can actually be quite challenging when you first start out. But it's definitely entertaining and might remind you of hula hooping as a child," Jacci says.

Just take it slow and if you feel any pain at all, stop.

Difficulty rating: 2/5

Fun fact: the World Record for the longest whirl is 72 hours (by Kym Coberly in 1984).
Fun fact: the World Record for the longest whirl is 72 hours (by Kym Coberly in 1984).

Line dancing

This style of dance is a fun mind/body workout for all age groups, regardless of whether you're a country music fan.

"Not only does it improve your coordination and balance, but it's also a wonderful way to socialise and meet new people," Jacci says.

Other benefits can include weight loss, stress relief, improved memory skills, stronger bones, and some experts say it may even ward off Alzheimer's disease and other age-related disorders.

While line dancing is generally considered a low-impact form of exercise, Jacci says you can vary the intensity. Someone who dances for 40 minutes will experience an increased heart rate and even perspire – all signs of a good workout.

Line dancing works the entire body, since the various movements require the use of legs, arms and core muscles.

"This provides the benefits of a moderate to high-intensity aerobic workout, with the added benefit of allowing you to engage socially with others," she says.

Difficulty rating: 2/5

Fun and informal, start with basic steps and work your way up.
Fun and informal, start with basic steps and work your way up.

Bokwa

Zumba fans will love the dance fitness workout of Bokwa. Set to high-energy music, this high-intensity activity blends elements of hip-hop with step aerobics.

"With Bokwa you don't have to learn any fancy choreography," Jacci says. Instead, the steps involve participants drawing shapes of letters and numbers with their feet. This helps the steps come naturally and makes them easier to pick up.

Ideal for beginners and seasoned dancers, Bokwa is also suitable for all ages and fitness levels.

"Being similar to Zumba, this is an excellent form of cardiovascular activity, which can increase endurance, burn fat, and improve coordination and balance," Jacci says.

In addition, studies show that high-intensity intermittent workouts, such as aerobic dance, can reverse heart abnormalities in people with diabetes. There's the added benefit of social interaction, which makes it a perfect choice for group fitness.

Difficulty rating: 4/5

It's dance, fitness and fun. It's Bokwa!
It's dance, fitness and fun. It's Bokwa!

Nia

Nia is a holistic fitness practice combining dance with martial arts, and mindfulness meditation, and it proves it's not essential to lift weights to stay in shape. "It's a fun activity that will leave you feeling energised and alive," Jacci says.

The best thing about Nia is that it's non-impact – so it's kind to your joints – making it safe for all ages and fitness levels. Not only does Nia leave people feeling refreshed, mentally clear and emotionally balanced, it provides a full-body cardiovascular workout.

"What's unique about this style of exercise is that it challenges the body, which can be especially useful if you've slowed down over the years," she adds.

Difficulty rating: 2/5

Nia combines martial arts, modern dance arts and yoga in a workout set to music.
Nia combines martial arts, modern dance arts and yoga in a workout set to music.

Play with your kids or grandkids

One of the greatest benefits of exercise is being able to do things you love. And it doesn't get better than messing about with your children. Even better, playing together is an excellent way to stay in shape and develop shared interests.

"There's a level of movement and agility required to be able to participate in any kind of play with toddlers or kids," Jacci explains. "In most cases, it's probably giving you a moderate to high-intensity workout.

"Among the many health benefits, you're likely to notice an improvement in your overall cardiovascular health, as well as strength and fitness. The fact that you have to move in all different directions and angles to play with little kids means it's delivering a total body workout," she says.

Choose activities that get both you and the kids moving – playing catch, riding bikes and swimming.

Difficulty rating: 3/5

The child inside wants to feel alive no matter how old we are.
The child inside wants to feel alive no matter how old we are.