I have been to the gym a few times in my life, with the best of intentions. The thought of the potential results of a good work out have tempted me to wear some deeply unattractive clothing, sweat profusely and wheeze like an old man on forty Capstan Full Strength a day.

My lovely friend and super athlete Jo goes regularly and took me along one day.

‘See,’ she beamed as I wobbled along on a treadmill next to her. ‘It’s just like walking the dog’. Well yes, and that’s exactly what I should have been doing, free of charge, in the fresh air wearing normal clothes and in much more appealing surroundings.

I’ve also tried Zumba. Now this, I did quite enjoy. It was very intense and I definitely felt like I’d had a good workout. I love music and have been known to fling myself about the dancefloor like a whirling dervish when the mood takes me, so Zumba made perfect sense.

But I could only fit in a class once a week and the one in town seemed to run at times which were awkward for me.

I think part of my problem is that I don’t really like being told what to do. Ask any of my previous bosses.

I do think exercise is incredibly important; I’m very aware now that my body is not as supple or strong as it used to be and this bothers me. I find it upsetting to see old people struggling to move around and it makes me want to ensure that I give myself the best possible chance of staying as fit and flexible in old age as I can. And I know that has to start now.

So having accepted that I’m not one for classes or regimented routines, I look for ways to keep moving that are often free of charge and can be done on a regular basis. Here are my three favourites.

  1. Dog walking.

As mentioned previously, I have a dog who needs daily walks and it’s a great way to get fresh air and enjoy the countryside too. Another friend, Jill, a former gymnast, will combine some movements while she walks (when out of sight of other people of course) such as windmill movements of the arms, high stepping, long stepping and squatting.

If you don’t own a dog you could ask around and see if anyone nearby has a dog that needs walking while they are at work, if you have the time. They will love you forever (owner and dog probably) and may even pay you.

  1. Zumbarising your housework.

If I’m hoovering and dusting or wiping down and washing in the kitchen and bathroom, I’ll often have music blasting out and dance my way around the house. I look a complete idiot of course, but only do this on my own. I try to keep in mind some of the movements I learnt from Zumba classes and make sure I use each part of my body correctly and don’t put excessive strain on one area. Doing this makes housework much more fun, and means I can sing too, an activity I am legally forbidden from doing when at a distance of less than 500 meters of anyone with normal hearing.

3. Horse riding & care

Riding is a rewarding activity and although I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is extremely unfit or overweight, it is a great way to tone and strengthen muscles. I also found it good for posture as you have to learn to sit in the correct way and stay balanced. You are listening constantly to feedback from the horse as well as having to stay in tune and aware of your own body, and there is a very good chance that you’ll develop a fascination for horses that will never subside. As well as riding, which is often just a once a week activity, you will probably find that your local riding school will snap up your offer of mucking out stables, cleaning tack or grooming the horses, all of which are great ways of keeping fit. Some centres even offer reduced rates on riding lessons to their helpers.

I hope that’s given you some inspiration to keep your body moving even if you can’t face going to the gym. There are of course a myriad of other possibilities, some of which are costly, some of which involve membership of classes of use of special equipment; Pilates, Tai Chi or circuit training classes are on offer in many towns. Sports like tennis, badminton and netball are available in many sports centres. Plus there are more specialist activities like sailing, windsurfing and skiing and there’s always the local pool for swimming on your own or taking aqua aerobics classes. There are golf courses all over the country and even if you don’t want to play yourself, make friends with someone who does, enjoy walking around with them (it’s usually several miles) then relaxing with a glass of something refreshing at the nineteenth hole.

© 2016 Linny Bartlett/Karma’s Footsteps

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