Some people discover their preferred form of physical activity when they’re young. Maybe your parents signed you up for a local soccer or basketball team or you went to a dance class and it grew from there. For other people, though, finding a physical activity that feels enjoyable, or at least sustainable, can be a lot harder. With so many options, how do you know what might be right for you?
While there’s no single predictor of what activity you’ll enjoy doing, there are a few factors that can help you navigate the fitness scene. Before you sign up for a gym or invest in equipment, consider these three questions and where they might lead you.
Do You Have Any Limitations?
One of the most important things to take into consideration when choosing a physical activity is whether or not you have any physical limitations or restrictions that you need to take into account. For example, people who have problems with their joints, ranging from chronic pain and arthritis to connective tissue disorders, often choose swimming because it’s a low-impact activity. Other people may be advised by their doctors to avoid contact sports like soccer or football, or may need to look for adaptive alternatives to a particular activity.
How Much Support Do You Want?
Some people approach athletics with a lot of internal motivation, even if they don’t know a lot about working out, while other people know that they won’t show up without some kind of external support. Which sounds more like you?
If you’re someone who needs more support to make sure that you stay on track, simply buying a gym membership is sure to be a waste of money. Instead, you’re more likely to benefit from either signing up for a fitness coaching program so that you have individualized support or joining a structured class or adult recreation league with friends. Having some external accountability can also be helpful when you’re just getting started, even if you generally think of yourself as self-motivated.
Do You Have An Underlying Goal?
If your main goal, when it comes to working out, is just to take care of yourself or maybe to run around with your kids, it doesn’t really make a big difference what activity you choose. Any combination of aerobics, strength training, balance work, and stretching will do the trick and keep you in fine shape.
If, on the other hand, you want to run a short race like a 5k for charity or you want to lose weight, you’ll want to be more intentional about your choices. Running can be a good way to lose weight, but if you can build the necessary endurance, you might get more out of an activity like high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Or if, for example, you’ve run your first 5k, which is an attainable goal for most people, and now you want to run faster or further, you’ll want to develop a more complex training program that includes core strengthening and overall conditioning, not just running.
Fitness is like a buffet in many ways – there are a lot of choices and that can be overwhelming, but it can also be an opportunity. Feel free to experiment, tag along with friends, or consult a trainer to see what feels right to you. This isn’t gym class or boot camp; there isn’t a wrong choice except choosing to sit at home and not do anything.