There was a time in your life when you didn't even realize what you were doing what was called aerobic or cardio exercise. Perhaps you met up with friends and rode your bikes everywhere you went. Or maybe you spent summers swimming away the hours. You might have enjoyed a game of basketball, softball or soccer with the kids in the neighborhood, or as part of a team. Whatever it was, chances are that you enjoyed it -- you were just out having fun. Well, it's time to rediscover that side of yourself.
One of the most successful long-term weight-maintenance strategies is to make sure you burn 1,000 calories through exercise every week. But how you burn them is up to you. As the suggestions below illustrate, you can do anything from playing basketball (400 calories an hour*) to jumping rope (658 calories an hour) to going dancing (300 calories an hour). There's no reason anything you do has to feel like a "workout."
So banish all the "I have to's" and "I should be's" from your vocabulary, and try out some of these idas for playing like a kid again.
1. Inline skate. Head for the sidewalk or boardwalk or, if it's cold outside, find an indoor skating rink (and think back to grade-school skating parties). Inline skating burns up to 700 calories an hour, depending on your speed and how hilly the course is.
2. Shoot hoops. At home, the local park or gym, play a game of basketball with a few friends. Burns 400 calories an hour.
3. Go dancing. Head out on a Saturday night to try salsa, swing or even belly dancing. Or pick your favorite music at home and just move. Burns about 300 calories an hour.
4. Join a winter league. Play tennis or racquetball and you'll burn roughly 500 calories an hour -- and up to 790 calories if squash is your game.
5. Try musical jump-rope. Put on some great music and jump to the beat; use a boxer's shuffle or any other jump step you know. Burns 658 calories an hour.
6. "Sock skate." Put on a pair of socks and simulate skating on a hardwood or tile floor. Burns 400 calories an hour.
7. Step it up. Sidestep, hop, jump, run up and down stairs, or take them two at a time. Burns about 360 calories an hour.
8. Rock 'n' walk. Buy a tape or CD to accompany your walk. Try SHAPE's audio series ($14 per CD at Amazon.com) or an audiotape with guided motivation (for example, Kate Larsen's LifeWalk Audio Training Program, $20 cassette at katelarsen.com). Burns 330 calories an hour.
9. Pick up the pace. Walk through your neighborhood, adding one minute of speed-walking or running every five minutes. Burns about 400 calories an hour if repeated 10 times during the course of an hour's walk.
10. Punch in. Buy a punching bag or speed bag and go a few rounds. Burns 394 calories an hour.
11. Jump around. Do aerobic moves, bounce or jog on a minitrampoline. Burns 230 calories an hour.
12. Track it. Wear a pedometer from the moment you wake up until the time you go to bed and see how many steps you really take in a day (aim for 10,000 -- you'll be surprised how quickly it adds up!). Burns 150 calories for 10,000 steps.
13. Add in your arms. Wear a PowerBelt ($80 at bodytrends.com) on your walk, so you're pumping your arms to create resistance -- and torch additional calories -- as you go. Burns 500 calories an hour going 4 mph.
14. Train in your neighborhood. Take a brisk walk and use your surroundings to perform strengthening exercises. Do push-offs on a mailbox, push-ups against a fence, step-ups on a curb or park bench, lunges up a hill or triceps dips on a bench. Can burn up to 700 calories an hour at a 4-mph pace.
15. Back-walk. Walk backward for variety, which really tones your hamstrings. Walk with a friend, with one of you facing forward, the other backward, then switch each block. Burns 330 calories an hour if you're going 4 mph.
16. Build a video library. Buy, rent or borrow aerobics videos that will keep you interested and motivated. Log on to collagevideo.com to preview videos and see descriptions of plenty of SHAPE favorites. Burns 428 calories an hour.
*Calorie estimates are based on a 145-pound woman.