Find me an exercise I actually want to do!
September 16, 2017 8:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm a natural layabout who needs to find a (preferably core-strengthening, preferably cheap) exercise I like enough to become a habit.

I'm getting older, my metabolism is dying, and I need to get off the couch and exercise. Problem is, I just really don't enjoy exercising at all. My favorite exercises are either expensive (yoga, Pilates) or more relaxing than helpful (yoga, I'm looking at you again). I am NOT a runner, more of an ambler.

In the past, I went to a gym with after-work classes (body pump, etc) that offered a good mix of muscle workout/cardio. But those gyms don't seem to exist anymore, at least not near me in my price range. The old-style workout classes seem to have moved more into Crossfit, which is kind of intense for me and not very relaxing. I have access to my tiny apartment living room and whatever exercise videos are on Roku, if that helps. However, I don't have much space and do have a rather curious cat.

I also recently had a slipped disc, so I'm looking for something that will get my core muscles moving and hopefully get rid of some belly fat but won't further damage my back.

Seriously, I just want a set of exercises I can do without thinking I'd rather be at the dentist's!
posted by kingdead to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I got into hiking and backpacking in a big way about a month after stenosis and a bulging L5/S1 disc had me hospitalized with back pain. Something about being strapped into a backpack really agrees with my back; it hurts more if I haven't been hiking for a while. It's also great cardio, and both pleasant to do (spending time in nature) and extremely rewarding (huge glorious mountaintop vistas). Depending on where you are, it can be done on some level year-round, even by beginners. As hobbies go, it is quite cheap; at early levels it's nearly free, though if you get into it there is some danger of becoming a gear addict.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:51 PM on September 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

Also, as an exercise, I like how real it is. On a treadmill, you can stop at any time. On a mountaintop, the only way you're getting home is by walking back down. Very motivating, that.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:53 PM on September 16, 2017 [7 favorites]

Glute bridge, planks, toe touching.
posted by rhizome at 10:25 PM on September 16, 2017

I'm similarly layaboutish and I've always liked the type of Pilates where you lie down to do the exercises (core strength). There are thousands of DVDs you can use to do these exercises at home but I haven't been motivated enough to figure out how to comfortably watch DVDs while lying on the floor.
posted by bendy at 10:40 PM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, on rereading your question, I don't know that there is an exercise more pleasant than going to the dentist if you don't have a particular mindset.

Exercise is tedious and repetitive and requires you to do the same thing over and over again. Why do you think gyms have so many TVs or people need earbuds/headphones in order to workout?

I kinda think the answer is to just accept the fact that for an hour every other day you're going to have to occupy your mind without the ability to engage your body.
posted by bendy at 10:47 PM on September 16, 2017

In my experience, the best - and possibly only - exercise to strengthen your core without putting stress on your spinal column/discs is swimming. First big downside is that it requires access to a pool - which can be expensive, inconvenient, or both. Second big downside is that swimming is great for building strength (and in some cases muscle mass) but is not great for burning fat. If you can conquer 3-4 days a week of swimming workouts for 4-6 months or so, you should be able to add in a day or two of running, and see a huge reduction in belly fat.

Also, many (if not most...) people seem to listening to music/podcasts/audiobooks or watching TV while working out. This makes sense to me, but I prefer running/cycling outdoors without headphones. I experience it as a new distraction every few seconds and it makes the miles go by faster. YMMV, good luck.
posted by Anoplura at 11:12 PM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you like yoga but don't find it helpful or cheap enough try power yoga videos. I like Rodney Yee's stuff and you can try some partial workouts on YouTube. Great for building strength to combat age-related muscle loss, and flexibility to combat aches and pains.
posted by hazyjane at 11:13 PM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I know squats have a weird/meat-heady reputation, but they tick your boxes.

I've had it described to me as the anti-desk job exercise. Your hip flexibility will improve no end, and you can start with zero weight or light kettle bells if you're worried about injury. Soon enough you'll be on a bar with no weights attached, and move up from there.

Squats really improve your core strength, aside from the obvious leg/bum strength gains. You won't end up looking like a weight lifter - I'm a cyclist, so I keep the weight between 50-80kgs and do longer than average sets to avoid bulking up. I've found that my lower back problems have cleared up, which is partly to do with the stretching I've been doing too.

Lastly, it's a really 'efficient' exercise. I rarely need more than 35 minutes in the gym. Just hold your nose when you encounter the bro-y, 'motivational' culture and you'll be fine.

Strength Training 101: How to Squat Properly
posted by MikePemulis at 12:01 AM on September 17, 2017 [12 favorites]

I've found the type of classes you describe to be available at every YMCA I've signed up at in the USA.
posted by raccoon409 at 4:04 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

This may seem like the opposite of an answer, but only you can know what type of exercise suits you best. Try out lots of different kinds (there are loads of free fitness videos on YouTube, and some clubs will give you a free trial) till you find one you enjoy, then stick with it. When it comes to fitness, what matters isn't the best routine you could do; it's the best routine you will do. Good luck!
posted by Perodicticus potto at 4:24 AM on September 17, 2017

For 5 dollars a week you can join the no excuses workout at home. It's 20 minutes of interval training using only your body. Lots of motivation included.
Or get out of the house and walk, walk, walk. It's great for your core.
Just remember that weight is lost in the kitchen not in the gym.
posted by SyraCarol at 4:58 AM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Rowing machines are expensive, but you won't find a better workout.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:03 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you liked BODYPUMP classes, Les Mills has on demand workouts. You would need to get weights to do Pump at home, but they also have core workouts and their yoga fusion format (CXWORX and BODYFLOW) available which don't require much equipment.
posted by danielleh at 8:12 AM on September 17, 2017

You can definitely find yoga that is challenging and core-strengthening, cardiovascular as well. Look for power yoga or vinyasa flow videos on youtube, if you want to save money by not taking a class.
posted by bearette at 8:38 AM on September 17, 2017

What about dancing?
posted by sciencegeek at 9:31 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding dancing. Workout videos and going to the gym just didn't work for my mother, but once she started going dancing once a week she was hooked. She now does English country dancing and square dancing regularly.
posted by Soliloquy at 10:34 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

My absolute favorite exercise is walking. The best part is that it doesn't feel like exercise for exercise's sake; it's just getting up and going somewhere without driving or riding. If I don't have a destination, I'm just enjoying the scenery. I don't use a pedometer or a Fitbit, but the GPS in my phone tells me how many miles I've walked. I guess I could listen to music or books, but I prefer to hear the neighborhood noises, especially if I'm on the shoulder of a road where there's no sidewalk. I used to walk most of the way to and from work, stopping at a bus stop when I got tired.

The Big Grain of Salt is that I don't know how walking would affect/be affected by your spinal condition. I wouldn't start a walking program without checking with your doctor.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:38 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

+1 for social dancing, especially choreographed set dancing like squares, contra, English, Scottish, "international", Israeli, Balkan, etc.

I've heard lots of people say that they tried and hated couples dancing for a variety of reasons (social anxiety, unwelcome sexual or romantic overtones, trouble finding partners), but really enjoyed set dances.

If you're concerned about footwork, many of these (squares, contra, English) just have you walking around in time to music, and others (Scottish, international, Israeli) have various levels of pretty easy and largely optional footwork.

If you want specific suggestions for your location, memail me.
posted by d. z. wang at 11:43 AM on September 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Swimming is actually an excellent calorie-burner - better than cycling, and nearly as good as running. It's also good for your back because your weight is supported in the water.

Obviously you do have to like swimming, but I do find that my mind can wander while I'm swimming much more than it can in a class (no moves to think about, nothing to trip over or navigate).

Failing that, recumbent cycles are often better for people with back pain, and most gyms have a couple next to the usual stationary bikes. If it's too boring, take a book or listen to a podcast.

If you like yoga, the Yoga Studio app is good (two week free trial then £19 per year). The Nike Plus app (or whatever they're calling it these days) has loads of 15-60min circuit classes of differing intensity, and is free.
posted by tinkletown at 11:51 AM on September 17, 2017

posted by WeekendJen at 1:45 PM on September 18, 2017

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