Fun + Fitness — Integrating Physical Activity with Your Social Life

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How active are you when you get together with friends or go out for a date night? Do you typically meet for dinner, and then settle in for a movie or a sports event — or do you go for a walk, bowling or dancing? I’d like to let you in on a little secret. Leading an active lifestyle isn’t just about sweating it out at the gym or getting in your daily walk or run. It’s about integrating physical activity with your everyday life — including your social life. With the constant barrage of public health messages telling us to exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, it’s easy to lose sight of an important truth — that it’s possible to be active while having fun. If you’re like most people, you probably sit too much. Instead of making sedentary socializing a habit— dinner, a movie, a concert, a play, a football game — why not be active while you spend time together? For my clients who are short on time, combining social and physical activity is the perfect way to build a more active lifestyle. Better yet, this approach comes with built-in support for exercise. You’re hanging out with others who are physically active, having a great time — so you’re more likely to do it again. Getting out and being active with your spouse or partner can even strengthen your relationship. A study of long-term married couples found those who underwent new and exciting activities together reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction compared to those who shared only familiar or ordinary activities. When my husband and I stay in to watch a movie on a Friday or Saturday night, more often than not we fall asleep before it’s over. But when we go out and do something active — like canoeing, hiking, dancing, or taking a crack at the batting cages — we spend much of our time talking and laughing, and return home feeling revitalized, refreshed, and reconnected. Interested in boosting your well-being while energizing your social life? Try these ideas for mixing fun and fitness:
  1. Invite another family to join yours for a weekend day hike or bike ride.
  2. Sign up for a recreational softball team with co-workers.
  3. Learn how to dance — swing, square, ballroom, Latin, line, etc.
  4. Explore local art and history museums before or after your dinner out.
  5. Organize a neighborhood walking group.
  6. For your next backyard barbecue, play classic backyard games — like badminton, Frisbee®, or croquet.
  7. Next time someone wants to meet for coffee, suggest coffee and a walk.
  8. Enjoy seasonal activities together — like skiing, snowshoeing, camping, or sailing.
  9. Learn something new with friends or family — tennis, tap dancing, ice skating, golf, or geocaching.
  10. Make your next vacation an active one — explore nearby towns and attractions on foot or bicycle.
When you think outside of the gym — and find ways to combine physical and social activity, it feels more like play than exercise. And that makes staying active — for good — a whole lot easier and much more likely. Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports. Reference Aron A, Aron E, Norman C, McKenna C, Couples’ Shared Participation in Novel and Arousing Activities and Experienced Relationship Quality, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,2000, Vol.78, No.2, 273-284