Did you know? According to the CDC, less than 50% of all American adults meet basic Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic activity. In other words, the majority of Americans simply aren’t getting the exercise they need to be healthy. You can see how this impacts every aspect of life, from rampant obesity to health problems resulting from sedentary lifestyles.
Improving your fitness is no easy feat, especially if you’ve never taken exercise seriously before. You might not see yourself as the active type. Maybe you always hire tree pruning services and repairmen to get things done around your home, and don’t do much in the way of DIY projects. Or perhaps you’re fairly active in most ways, but simply don’t enjoy exercise.
Whether you find traditional exercise boring or you just need some extra motivation, one of the best ways to go about improving your fitness is to engage with your community. Getting out of the house to move and be active can introduce novelty into an otherwise dull exercise practice. It can even let you connect with friends and meet new people in your area.
From going to the medical spa with friends to playing basketball at the park, there are lots of ways to get outside while improving your fitness. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.
Try Out Local Gyms
For many people, getting around to going to the gym is like having an important home repair that you’ve been putting off. It’s not necessarily difficult to install a new residential garage door opener, but it’s also easy to put up with a broken one and just park the car in the driveway. Similarly, everyone knows the “should” go to the gym, but it’s just easier to think about doing it someday as opposed to signing up and getting started.
Of course, sometimes that apprehension is warranted. After all, starting anything new can be a little bit nerve-wracking, and people who’ve never been to a gym simply wouldn’t know what to expect.
Fortunately, there are some strategies for finding a gym that’s right for you and that you feel comfortable visiting.
Perhaps the most important quality in a local gym is its proximity to your home. You can always drive across town to work out, but you’re much more likely to make it a habit if you don’t have far to go. It’s a good idea to find a gym within 15 minutes of your home.
Second to distance, the cleanliness of the gym and its equipment is a big factor. You probably guessed that gyms tend to be germ factories, and keeping things clean is a must, especially in our post-COVID world. Before you sign up for membership, take a look around and make sure everything is clean enough for you to work out comfortably.
You should also think about a gym’s target demographic. You might assume that all gyms are pretty much the same, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Some gyms focus on power lifters and serious athletes, and they have heavy equipment and sparse decor to match. But more and more gyms are opening up to target people with less experience working out. These gyms strive to create quieter, more relaxed environments, and typically have less and simpler equipment. If you’re new to working out, this second type of gym might be best for you. On the other hand, you may find that kind of environment restricting and uncomfortable, especially if you aren’t a quiet person by nature.
Finally, you should consider signing up with a gym that has interactive programs, especially if you’re new to exercise. Working with a coach, whether it’s one on one or with a group, is a great way to stay accountable and consistent with your training. If your contract requires you to show up on a schedule so you can train, you’ll be far more likely to keep going back. As a bonus, you’ll also be interacting with other people more.
A quick note about contracts, though: make sure you read them carefully before signing one. If there’s anything that makes you uncomfortable, discuss it with the manager or representative before signing. Make sure you get any verbal promises in writing, too.
Improving your fitness boosts your health in lots of ways. It can even be a form of revitalizing treatment since it can help slow down aging. And by working out at a local gym, you’ll be supporting a local business and getting out into your community in the process.
Visit Community Parks
If going to the gym feels too structured or intimidating to you, there are other ways of improving your fitness. Why not go to the park?
Few things are more refreshing than outdoor living, and few ways of enjoying the outdoors are easier than visiting your neighborhood park. It’s also a fantastic way to keep your kids entertained if you have children. Best of all, it’s completely free.
Besides improving your fitness, going to the park is great for boosting your sense of community. The more parks you visit, the more people you’re likely to meet. You may remember going to the park when you were a child and meeting other kids from around the neighborhood. You may feel less social now as an adult, but why not visit the park again, just to see if you bump into anyone and hit it off with them? If nothing else, you’ll get some sunshine and fresh air.
Not only is going to the park good for the community, but it’s good for your city as well. Every park as an entire crew of staff members keeping it clean and attractive. These people put their heart and soul into maintaining your neighborhood park, and too often their efforts go unnoticed as people are too busy or distracted to visit. By showing your park some love, you’ll also be showing the city that it’s worth keeping open, and appreciating the hard work of the park staff.
If allergies make it difficult or uncomfortable to go outside, consider seeing an allergy doctor to see if that can be taken care of. It’s healthy to spend time outside, so try to resolve anything that stands in the way of that.
Volunteer for Good Causes
There are many reasons to volunteer your time to support a good cause. Maybe you just want to help make the world a better place. Perhaps you’d like to support nonprofits, but don’t have disposable income to do it. Either way, using your time to help others is highly rewarding, and one of the best things you can do. And because it requires you to get out and be active, it can even help with improving your fitness.
Whether you’re campaigning for increased access to CBD health supplements or serving at your church, there are countless ways you can make a difference.
Animal rescue shelters are a popular place to volunteer, and they’re always needing more support. You can help with office work by volunteering to field phone calls and answer emails. You might even have the opportunity to go out in the field and help rescue animals in need, which can have the added benefit of improving your fitness.
We mentioned how valuable parks can be for getting active, but often they need volunteer support as well. National parks especially rely on volunteer labor for maintenance, such as collecting litter and emptying garbage cans.
If you have a heart for helping people, food pantries and soup kitchens might be more your thing. You could be organizing local food drives, raising money and taking donations with POS systems, or handing out hot meals to those in need. But those aren’t the only skills that local charities like these need. Often they can’t afford to hire specialists for complex tasks involved in running a charity, such as bookkeeping, copywriting, and even cooking. If you happen to have valuable business skills like these, even if it’s only at a basic level, you could be a valuable asset to local charities.
If you have strong hands-on skills, you may be needed at a charity that does construction and repair work for people in need. Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together are two such organizations with local affiliates in countless cities around the world. These groups will provide essential repairs to homes of the elderly, disabled, and those of low income, as well as to important social buildings like food banks and homeless shelters. As you can imagine, they never have too many people working for them.
Local libraries and art museums also frequently rely on volunteers to operate. Even just a few hours per week can be a highly valuable contribution to institutions like these, which often go underserved and under-appreciated. You can even pick up administrative skills from working there. It might not do much to improve your fitness, but it will at least help you get active and out into the community. If you have a love for art or literature, it’s a great idea.
Maybe books and paintings aren’t exactly your thing. For something a little more active, you could also volunteer at a nearby YMCA. Opportunities to volunteer there involve helping both children and adults stay safe and develop competent life skills. You could tutor literacy courses or even coach a sports team. There may be long-term positions open that you could fill, or you might be able to help with a one-off activity. Reach out to the YMCA near you to find out what they could use help with.
Participate in a 5K Run
Running is one of the best-known and most popular ways of improving your fitness, and some people find it more enjoyable than other forms because it actually involves getting outside. But if you have trouble getting yourself to stick to a running routine, participating in a 5K might help get you out the door. Not only that, but running a 5K adds a definite social aspect to training and working out.
The thought of preparing for a big race like a 5K might be nerve-wracking, but it’s nothing to fear. With the right preparation, anyone can successfully and safely participate in a 5K run.
There are lots of reasons to run a 5K: becoming a better runner, getting in shape, and feeling proud and accomplished afterwards are just the start. It also gives you a chance to get involved in your local community, which can be highly valuable if you don’t have many friends. Not only that, but it can also be a way to give back. 5K runs are often done to benefit charities and important causes. Running for a cause can turn an exciting experience into a truly meaningful one.
To begin preparing to run a 5K, it’s a good idea to get a medical examination first. Running places a lot of stress on the body, and so good technique and occasional checkups will be important. You might find a nearby foot and ankle center to help with this.
Once you know you’re up to the task, you’ll need to find and register for your 5K. Signing up for your race ahead of time gives you more incentive to train, and it also helps you prepare by showing you what to expect.
After signing up, you’ll need to choose a 5K training plan that inspires and motivates you. A quick web search will show you hundreds of 5K training programs that you can apply in your workouts. It’s best to find one that’s fairly simple and straightforward. Working out is a physical challenge in any case, so there’s no point in turning it into a mental challenge as well with a complicated exercise plan.
Along with training your body for the race, you’ll also want to consume a healthy diet while you’re training. Foods and supplements that are high in protein, minerals, and vitamins are essential for building up your body. Try to stay away from too much sugar and processed foods.
Don’t forget to buy the right clothes and gear that you’ll need for your race. It’s critically important to have comfortable, high-quality shoes for running in, both during your race and while you’re training. You’ll also need clothes that are appropriate for the weather you’re running in, and maybe a water bottle that you can keep in a fanny pack around your waist.
Last, as you work on running in the days leading to the 5K, keep track of your speed and endurance. It’s hard to improve something if you aren’t measuring it, so keep a journal to track things like time spent running, distance covered, and how easy or difficult your training felt every day.
Improving your fitness doesn’t have to be a significant challenge. You can squeeze a few minutes of brisk exercise in any time, even if you’re just waiting for contractors to arrive for AC installation in your home. But to make working out even more interesting, shake things up by getting out into your city and participating in your community.
The ways we’ve discussed here are some great places to start. Don’t wait — start improving your fitness today.