5 Classes You Should Take Outside of the Gym

Nutrition and exercise programs—that don't require a monthly membership!—may be the key to a healthy, happy life

A 30-day menu plan. An eight-week workplace weight-loss challenge. A 12-week boot camp. They all have one thing in common: a structured format with a designated end date inspiring you to embrace healthy habits-and sustain them long term. The best part: You can do them all without stepping foot in the gym.

And they work. A recent study conducted by The Good Foundation in Australia in conjunction with British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver found that participants in Oliver's 10-week healthy-cooking initiative had great success in decreasing fast food consumption, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, boosting knowledge of nutrition, and changing their overall attitude about food. "The benefits of engaging in a structured program within a limited time frame are that they provide accountability and a plan for success," says Chris Freytag, an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and health coach. Here, five ways you can complement your usual gym routine with new ideas for healthy living.




A wildly popular nutrition plan designed to "change your life in 30 days," this structured program starts with education-knowing what's bad for your body and why-and then tough love. If it's bad for you, get rid of it! According to Whole30, you should "think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system."

30-Day Fitness Challenges



Social media is good for so much more than silly memes and cat videos. It can also hold you accountable for accepting a challenge and tracking your progress. (Psst! The Right And Wrong Ways to Use Social Media for Weight Loss.) The website 30DayFitnessChallenges.com provides a variety of free challenges and encourages you to tweet, Facebook, and hashtag your heart out-all while building strength, muscle, and bragging rights.

Retail Cooking Classes



From nationwide chains like Whole Foods and Sur La Table to local boutique markets like New York City-based Nourish Table + Kitchen, retail outlets offer a host of healthy cooking classes and series'. Their aim? To educate about healthy eating and meal preparation and (of course!) entice you to purchase their healthy food and kitchen supplies. With classes like Sur La Table's "Skinnytaste: The Lighter Side of Delicious," and Nourish Table + Kitchen's "Detox Class," it's a win-win. You learn to cleanse your body, have fun cooking healthy meals, and stock your shelves with organic veggies (and fancy Le Creuset!) in the process. Plus, cooking classes are sometimes free-and one of our 40 Free Date Ideas You'll Both Love.

Bootcamp with Your Canine



Your four-legged friend could be your favorite workout partner if you take a class like "Bonding with Bootcamp" from Leash Your Fitness, a San Diego, CA-based fitness company that offers a variety of canine-friendly classes, hikes, and yoga events. Sign up for a month of unlimited classes and enjoy all-in-one cardio, strength-training, and interval work combined with obedience and agility training for your pup. Structure and socialization for both you and your pooch is a total plus.

Choose Your Own Biggest Loser



There's nothing like a healthy dose of competition among co-workers to motivate weight loss. Inspired by the hit show The Biggest Loser, Biggest Loser challenges are popular in workplaces everywhere. It's simple enough: Decide on the duration, weigh yourself at the start and weekly to hold all participants accountable, stake a desirable prize on the table, and watch the pounds come off. In fact, a 2013 study by RAND Health found that roughly half of all U.S. employers with 50 or more employees have implemented some sort of employer-sponsored wellness program. Note: If you're planning a weight loss program, make sure to talk to your doc about the right (and wrong) ways to do it. (Plus, don't miss these 10 Ways to Lose Weight Without Even Trying.)

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