Really actually fun cardio
November 15, 2011 1:44 PM   Subscribe

What are some genuinely enjoyable activities I can do for an aerobic workout that aren't too hard on the body?

I've never enjoyed exercising for the sake of fitness, but once I took up rock climbing I realized that even though it's a good strength workout, I enjoy the activity so much that I don't have any trouble motivating myself to do it quite regularly. I'd like to find something similar on the aerobic side of things.

Difficulty: Ultimate is sufficiently fun, but I think it's too hard on the body to use as the primary aerobic workout. I don't enjoy running or biking and presumably wouldn't enjoy swimming for similar reasons. Listening to music/podcasts/audiobooks while doing aerobic activities helps avoid boredom, but it doesn't help my motivation to go do them. I want something that's so fun that I just want to go do it and the exercise is a side-effect.
posted by Cogito to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Kayaking, Surfing, or Kite Boarding. You might not like biking but have you tried Mountain Biking?

Team sports like soccer and softball?

posted by bitdamaged at 1:53 PM on November 15, 2011

Why not use climbing stuff at home? A pull up bar, and you could install climbing handle thingys (not a practitioner) where you live, while watching 60 Minutes or practicing for weekends at the actual climbing gym, whatever. How about rowing crew?
posted by rhizome at 1:54 PM on November 15, 2011

Well, I think Zumba is a lot of fun-- the hour goes by really quickly, and if you're in a good class it doesn't matter how good or coordinated you are.

I have heard it can be hard on the knees-- personally I didn't have any issues, but if you have knee problems you might have more trouble. There's a lot of jumping and quick stepping, which I think could aggravate an existing problem.
posted by lockstitch at 1:54 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hmm, that's challenging, though I totally get where you're coming from! For me, biking is fun enough to fit the bill since I feel like I'm on a broomstick on my super cute road bike! I participated in a really cool run earlier this year that included all kinds of obstacles, including Sasquatches and a mud pit. It seems to be a trend right now- try looking for races with "Mudder" or "Dirt Dash" in the title. In that vein, you might enjoy hashing, which is sort of a kooky running/social/drinking club kind of experience. I think sometimes you get chased on the runs, which could be terrifying or really fun.
posted by Polyhymnia at 1:56 PM on November 15, 2011

Response by poster: rhizome, I just don't think that climbing is a good aerobic workout. Also, I row currently and think it fits the bill aside from the fact that I just don't enjoy it enough to be motivating. I'm looking for something to replace it that I love doing.
posted by Cogito at 1:57 PM on November 15, 2011

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:00 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Racquetball is super-immersive and extremely cardio-intense without, in my experience, seeming too strenuous. It can be really fun, especially if you find someone of comparable ability to battle with. To be clear, playing someone much better than you is soul-crushing and to be avoided at all costs, except for comic relief. Running around chasing some semi-pro's laser shots that skim 2 inches off the floor is not fun. Playing a friend is.
posted by empyrean at 2:00 PM on November 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Dancing. Rollerskating. Playing with a dog (frisbee, or fetch, or just chasing it around). Walking in pretty surroundings with a good friend and a picnic.

Climbing can be aerobic if you do easy routes and challenge yourself to go as fast as you can, or to climb the route over and over without a break, but then it's not very fun.
posted by lollusc at 2:01 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Farm work.
Playing outside with children or doggies.
posted by midnightmoonlight at 2:02 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ice skatting.
posted by midnightmoonlight at 2:03 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I also ski, and it is super fun, but not that much of a cardio workout (too much downtime on the lift). Unless you do back-country, which I plan to start, but even then would be awfully tricky to do several times/week and is limited to those skiing times of year.

These are great ideas though, please keep them coming.
posted by Cogito at 2:07 PM on November 15, 2011

ROLLER SKATING! Not playing derby though that's not easy on the joints :)
posted by capnsue at 2:07 PM on November 15, 2011

You know, I really don't like running but I recently took up swimming and I LOVE it. It is meditative and solitary. . .I can swim a long time at a decent pace or get my inner Michael Phelps on and do crazy speed drills. There is variety in strokes and different drills to develop skills. If you haven't tried swimming recently, you might give it a shot. I think it is totally different from running which just makes me sad.
My other go-to is hiking. Not a slow walk in nature but trucking up a mountain hiking. It's even better if you have dogs who set the pace.
Cross country skiing is great too with no downtime on the lifts. But, getting to the snow can be time consuming as you noted in your update.
posted by rachums at 2:15 PM on November 15, 2011

Activities I find aerobic and enjoyable:
*Zumba classes
*Wii workouts
--some of the Wii Fit Plus activities
--some of the Wii Sports Resort activities
--Just Dance songs
--Helix with weights
--Gold's Gym Cardio Workout (boxing)
*DDR - Dance Dance Revolution (oh man DDR is fun and it will make you sweat)
posted by flex at 2:23 PM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

How about basketball? I think it's super fun! I understand what you're talking about. I grew up in a place where forced exercise was unheard of. All the adults were strong and thin, without ever making themselves work out. I've never seen anyone even run in the streets, and we didn't have gyms, besides at school.. So as an adult I find myself in a new place where people must, must, must work out... and I hate it, it's such a foreign concept to me! :-)

Last year I was in such bad shape I couldn't even raise my knees to TRY to run. It hurt so much. I was, what? 10 pounds overweight? So it wasn't that I was fat. Now I'm OK, but I still hate forced exercise. But anyway...

Basketball (gyms and high-schools often have teams for adults, in varying physical shape)
Aqua aerobics. My friends laughed at me, that I'd be playing with old ladies. So what? I'll be an old lady some day too! And aqua aerobics is fun!
Swimming is fun... in the ocean, not in a pool. No go, there. Back to aqua aerobics.
Building houses for habitat for humanity.
Demolishing houses!
Wood cutting for the wood stove.

And hmm... maybe I'll think some more later, I have to cook dinner.

I know these won't work for most people, but there ARE opportunities out there for unexpected workouts :-)
Lost the 10 pounds and am in super good health now
posted by midnightmoonlight at 2:27 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding DDR. Very fun, very good aerobic workout.
posted by knave at 3:14 PM on November 15, 2011

If you like cross-country skiing, I've seen these, err, things that look like skis but have wheels on them and you get custom poles that work on the street and viola, you're skiiing around looking like a lunatic in the middle of summer. I want to say they're called roller skis, but couldn't say for sure.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:25 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hula Hooping! is totally fun as you can go do it with a bunch of friends and there is music involved to keep you motivated. You are also usually learning new tricks and moves, so it doesn't get boring. And it can really get you in shape without too much stress on joints.
posted by Vaike at 3:27 PM on November 15, 2011

Martial arts! If you're doing something that isn't heavy on sparring, you can go easy on your body and still get a good aerobic workout. (This would be a what a lot of the fun gym versions of kickboxing and boxing have been over the last few years).
posted by yeloson at 3:31 PM on November 15, 2011

Response by poster: Martial arts sounds somewhat promising. Any ideas about what disciplines might be particularly good cardio?
posted by Cogito at 3:34 PM on November 15, 2011

mma circuit training, muay thai pad work
posted by the cuban at 4:35 PM on November 15, 2011

Latin dance. Volleyball. Weighted jump rope.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:44 PM on November 15, 2011

Maybe capoeira.
posted by rhizome at 5:24 PM on November 15, 2011

I totally agree that that muay thai of any sort is really fun and will get your heart pumping.
posted by devymetal at 5:24 PM on November 15, 2011

And if your form is good, you can go at your own pace (in a good school) and not wear yourself out too much.
posted by devymetal at 5:26 PM on November 15, 2011

badminton, if you can find a court. it's cheap. pretty fun. you can do it at your own pace.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:30 PM on November 15, 2011

I've done a couple martial arts, and boxing was one of the best cardio workouts, but it depends on the boxing gym what type of workouts you do. Start with bag work and conditioning classes then work up to paired mitt drills, finally light sparring if you like it. There should be plenty of boxing gyms friendly to both sexes around in any major urban area. Just make sure to bring your own gloves, the communal loaner gloves inevitably smell like molten brie. If you're in the bay area, memail me and I can make more specific recs.

Muay thai is also very good. Krav maga is fun, but the amount of cardio will depend on the gym, some places focus more on learning moves than a full hour of cardio drills. Jui-jitsu is a crazy good workout, but you have to be ok wrestling other sweaty people and it takes a while to become competent enough not to be dangerous to others. I found capoeira to be incredibly hard on my joints, but I'm a square shaped inflexible lunk, so YMMV.
posted by benzenedream at 5:52 PM on November 15, 2011

nthing Zumba! I am officially addicted and it makes me feel great, look better, and made pain from a slipped disc basically disappear. It's a great workout that is fun, too.

Also check out other classes your gym offers, if you belong to a gym. I joined some other dance classes as well as a Tae Bo aerobics class. All of those are a lot of fun and very motivating. I used to like working out on the machines, but now find them boring.
posted by bearette at 6:20 PM on November 15, 2011

Try swimming. I know you said you don't think you'd like it, but start with backstroke (so you can breathe at will). It takes a month of dedication, but once you're in the zone it's a great workout with almost no stress on the joints beyond going through a range of motion.

Bonus: if you have any back problems, swimming pretty much un-knots your entire spine.
posted by notsnot at 7:10 PM on November 15, 2011

Contra dancing! It's so much fun! (Youtube link)
posted by jenmakes at 9:07 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

jenmakes I came in here to say exactly the same thing! Makes you sweat and breathe nice and hard. Bring water and possibly an extra shirt to change into. The only downside is that depending on where you are, you will probably not be able to do it more than once a week, or even once a month.
posted by Polyhymnia at 9:49 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

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