Active Hobbies Makes Exercise Fun Part of Day

Patient Expert

I had an "a-ha" moment Sunday. I was reading the Houston Chronicle and came across a story headlined, "Active lifestyles burn calories, energize social life." The article noted that aging slows the metabolism, which often causes weight creep. And if you've been sedentary, it becomes difficult to get motivated to exercise.

"You can cut calories from your diet and hit the gym to burn more," reporter Diane Cowen said. "But another way to keep your weight under control is to simply make your lifestyle more active. No, we're not talking about taking the stairs instead of the elevator or to park farther out in a parking lot to build more steps into your day. We're talking about adopting active hobbies that get you outdoors, make you sweat and build muscle. Yeah, they'll burn calories, too."

That last part was my "a-ha" moment. Lately, my exercise routine has involved walking the dogs, a periodic visit to the gym and an occasional yoga tape. And perhaps it's the word "routine" that's got me stuck. Routine means drudgery, mind-numbing rote exercising. Yuck Maybe that's why at times it's difficult to stick with it. And the story also got me thinking about my earlier days. As a kid, I was always out running around. As a teenager, I used to go practice tennis ground strokes against our carport's back wall.   In my 20s, I was playing tennis regularly as well as basketball. And in my 30s, tennis remained a regular part of my schedule. But in my 40s (right as my metabolism began slowing down), I started a high-pressure job as well as graduate school. Something had to give and that was hitting the tennis court regularly. And by my mid-40s, I was faced with caregiving for a parent with Alzheimer's disease. When I did get back to tennis in the past two years, I promptly suffered a strained plantar fasciitis, which took many months to heal. And the next time I got back to the courts, lower back pain slowed me down.

Cowen points to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which found that older women need to participate in one hour of moderate exercise daily to keep from gaining weight.

So what types of active hobbies are recommended? The Houston Chronicle provided the following suggestions:

  • Kayaking, which requires good balance skills but no special fitness level. This activity burns 600-700 calories an hour for a 160-pound person.
  • Cycling, which burns 292 calories at 10 miles per hour and 768 calories at 14-16 miles per hour.   "Let your fitness level be your guide to how long your rides are," Cowen recommended. "Start with shorter distances; as you gain strength (not to mention friends and gear) ride farther and faster.
  • Sand volleyball, which burns 300 calories an hour. "You need to be somewhat fit to get started; the sport involves lots of jumping   and diving after balls," Cowen wrote.
  • Tennis, which burns 450 calories for singles and 300 calories for doubles. "You don't have to be athletic to take up this sport, but it does involve some running as well as quick stops and starts," the reporter noted.
  • Master swimming, which burns 700 calories per hour.

Obviously, the Houston Chronicle reporter focused on hobbies you can do outdoors. Another option available is dancing. Participating in line dancing, Irish step dancing, polka, country, disco, folk or square dancing, flamenco dancing, belly dancing, swing dancing, Greek dancing and the hula can burn more than 300 calories per hour. Other types of dance such as waltz, foxtrot, samba and tango can burn more than 200 calories per hour.

I really like this idea of an active hobby. It reinstates the idea of fun into physical activity as opposed to the "need to check it off my to-do list" routine that exercise often becomes.   And that seems to be much more enjoyable (and doable).