Working Out: 4 Surprising Alternatives to Hitting the Gym

In more ways than you’d think, we’ve been fed the illusion that going to the gym is the absolute solution to everything from weight problems to keeping healthy, athletic and fit.

Everyone wants to get in shape, stay healthy and look their best, but working out at the gym isn’t the whole picture, or the only one, for that matter.

After all, gym memberships are expensive, and making a special trip to get to the gym can take up too much time in a busy schedule. Fortunately, there are several surprising alternatives out there that will work just as well.

Even if you do have time to go to the gym, mixing a few of these alternatives into your workout plan can make you achieve your goals a little bit faster. 

Ballet Dancing

Yes, you’ve read that right. Dance is one of the most physically demanding activities in the world. This is especially true of the more energetic styles, such as ballet. It’s a decent choice for people who want to build their strength and endurance, but the real benefit is improving your balance and coordination. It can be surprisingly difficult to build up those qualities through traditional workouts, since they tend to focus on repetitive motions, so this is a valuable tool for any athlete.

The convenience of working out through dance will vary depending on the type. Outdoor Zumba classes are common, and they tend to be both cheaper and more convenient that going to a gym. Ballet requires significantly more training, so while it might be more fun than a trip to the gym, it isn’t likely to be more convenient. Video lessons are also an option for people who want to dance in the comfort of their own homes.

Dance is so effective that even professional athletes make use of it. Steve McLendon, who plays nose tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, says that ballet is one of the hardest things he does. Ballet is actually quite popular among professional football players, which proves that it’s one of the best ways to build strength and coordination at the same time.

Mountain Biking

It’s important not to neglect cardiovascular health, and one of the best ways to keep your heart in good shape is to get on a mountain bike. A study published in 2007 that focused on the physiology of mountain biking revealed the many benefits of this sport.

All biking is good for you, but mountain biking requires more frequent bursts of power to climb slopes.

People who race on bikes often stay at 90% of their maximum heart rate. While most people will be lower than that, it will still give their hearts a good workout.

The hidden advantage to mountain biking is that it’s easy for bikers to stay motivated. Going to the gym often seems like a chore, so people procrastinate with it. On the other hand, mountain biking is a fun sport, especially on a Gravity FSX bike, so people go out of their way to find the time to do it. This makes mountain biking popular with a variety of celebrities, athletes, and even politicians.

George North, a gigantic Welsh rugby player, uses mountain biking to help stay in shape. That is one of the only things that he has in common with former president George W. Bush, who joins and organizes bike trips for military veterans.


Even the best workout plan is useless if it isn’t combined with a healthy diet. It’s important to keep your goals in mind when you plan that diet, since different foods will support different goals, but there are a few things that are useful for almost everybody.

There are plenty of different foods and drinks that can promote weight loss, so most people can work at least one or two into their diet. Drinking more cold water is usually the easiest change, and it can also be one of the most effective because many people are slightly dehydrated. All water can be helpful, but cold water is best because your body will burn a few extra calories bringing it up to body temperature.

People who want to lose weight can also trick their brain to make the process easier. If you want to cut calories, try to replace your dishes with slightly smaller versions.

Research indicates that this leads people to feel full after eating less food, which can encourage weight loss by reducing calorie intake. Always remember to use the smaller plates for foods that need to be eaten in moderation, while keeping the bigger plates for healthy vegetables that should be eaten in larger quantities.

New Routine

Improving your health doesn’t have to take huge changes. A few small changes to your daily routine can do just as much good, and they don’t take very much effort. For example, something as simple as taking the stairs every day instead of taking an elevator can lead to a healthier heart. At most, that will add a couple of minutes of effort a few times per day, but in the long run those minutes will add up and make a significance difference.

There are a lot of little habits that can lead to better health, but they all rely on choosing options that take physical effort over options that do not. Walking a few blocks instead of driving, or taking the long way around the office may not seem like much, but in the long run they can make a substantial difference.

The Big Picture

Working out and staying healthy does not necessarily mean paying for a membership at the local gym. There are plenty of ways to integrate healthy habits into your daily routine. If you want something a little more intense, you can turn to sports and athletics activities that you can do in the great outdoors or in the comfort of your own home. Even if you do like going to the gym, giving them a try can add valuable variety to your workout routine.