Don’t Say You Hate Exercise Until You’ve Tried These 26 Workouts

You know those people who work out every day? The ones who set their alarms for 5:30 a.m. so they can run six miles or do three HIIT circuits all before they even sit down at their desks? Do you ever wonder if they’re having…fun?

Not everyone relishes the joys of hardcore athletic training. And if you don’t, there are plenty of ways to exercise that, wait for it…you may actually enjoy.

“Don’t be afraid to try something new,” says Robyn Riojas, a Les Mills group fitness trainer and presenter. “I thought I never liked cycling, but after trying it, it’s now fairly regular part of my workouts.”

There’s a whole world out there of enjoyable, and even unconventional ways to exercise—it’s just a matter of finding the one that works for you.

1. Take a hike.

Hiking kills two birds with one stone: It gets you out of your typical routine, and it’s incredibly active—so long as you don’t choose the flattest trail. Remember to challenge yourself, people! So if you love to be outdoors and feel that burn in your legs, take a hike—and don’t forget to snap pics of your victory pose at the top.

2. Hit the slopes.

Skiing and snowboarding are great ways to enjoy the outdoors, and get fit in the process—they’re both a great combo of resistance and endurance training. Plus, you’ll get your heart rate up in the process: Research shows that skiing has the same cardio benefits as cycling or rowing.

3. Go for a walk.

Running isn’t for everyone, and that’s totally okay. Walking at a fast enough pace to get your heart rate up can be just as effective. In fact, research shows that brisk walking or a slow jog can boost heart health and decrease mortality.

“Explore a local park solo, take your dog (or someone else’s) on a walk, or just take a stroll with a family member,” suggests Riojas.

4. Try horseback riding.

More than just majestic, beautiful creatures, horses can actually be a great source of exercise. “Horseback riding is a great exercise not only for core stability and leg work while riding, but [it can] also be like therapy to be around animals that are such symbols of strength,” Riojas says.

5. Go rock climbing.

Whether indoor or outdoor, you’re getting the same benefits. “It’s a total-body workout using both upper and lower body to navigate the terrain, as well as tons of core to keep you balanced,” says Riojas. She also notes that there’s a lot of mental work and strategy required in each and every session.

6. Kayak through peaceful waters.

Why hit the rowing machine at the gym when you can actually take to the water? Those machines at the gym designed to give you a great upper-body workout are modeled off of real-life activities that are way more fun. So leave the seated cable rows for the gym rats and get your back and arms into shape while drinking in some nature.

7. Go dancing.

Take an organized dance class, like hip hop, salsa, or Zumba—anything to get your heart rate up. “There are so many different styles that you’re bound to find a class or instructor that you like,” Riojas adds. The motions of dancing work minute muscles that might be missed in straight running or weight training.

Or change the atmosphere completely and go out with your friends. As long as you’re moving, you’re working.

8. …or just dance around in your room.

“A family favorite of ours is just to turn up some music and have an impromptu dance party. It’s great for lifting your heart rate and even better for your overall mood,” says Riojas.

“Music can be such a great motivator and mood lifter,” says Riojas. “In fact, no matter what type of exercise you’re doing, adding music definitely makes it more fun.”

9. Join a race.

It doesn’t have to be the New York City Marathon (but, hey, why not?). Signing up for a race like Tough Mudder, the Color Run, or a triathlon adds the fun of competition, plus the benefits of training with other people who have similar goals. Having a tangible goal to shoot for with a decisive end date is one way to stay motivated to pound the pavement, and enjoy yourself while you do it.

10. Kick ass in martial arts.

“Martial arts uses a lot of repetition and discipline to train your body and mind, plus you get the benefit of confidence and empowerment for yourself,” says Riojas. Karate, taekwondo, tai chi, and many others help with coordination, balance, and even depression and anxiety. Plus these workouts are low impact so they are great for people with chronic pain.

11. Train with a professional.

Intrigued by the weight room, but no idea where to start? A trainer is a wonderful, motivational option. Trainers can help you stay on track and figure out how to work your body to suit your needs. Having the support of someone who is there specifically to help you meet your goals adds an emotional energy boost that makes the experience more enjoyable.

12. Try a partner workout.

It can be hard to motivate yourself on your own, but teaming up with a workout partner is a great way to stay accountable.

“[My husband] is my favorite workout partner,” says Riojas. “When things get tough, you know someone else is in it with you, pushing you, encouraging you, and celebrating with you at the end.”

13. Have sex.

Speaking of partner workouts…

Okay, so full disclosure: Sex isn’t as much of a workout as you might think. It only burns an average of 69.1 calories in 30 minutes for women—but hey, better than nothing.

Also, sex may also be a fun motivator to exercise outside of the bedroom: One study shows that women who exercise have more active sex lives and reach orgasm more quickly. So…think of fitness as some effective foreplay.

14. Go rollerblading.

Strapping on a pair of inline skates not only targets and tones leg and core muscles, it’s also great to do with friends and can be a fun activity that doesn’t feel much like exercise. Plus, a study from Harvard Medical School shows that an hour of inline skating can burn anywhere from 400 to 600 calories.

15. Flow through some yoga.

There’s no denying yoga is a great workout, and there are so many different versions of yoga that you may love. There’s hot yoga, vinyasa yoga, power yoga, outdoor yoga, stand-up paddle board yoga, naked yoga, boxing yoga, yoga with cats…the list goes on, and on, and on.

16. Break out your Wii Fit.

Video games can be just about vegging on the couch, but they can also make workouts fun and engaging. With a Wii Fit, you can gameify your workouts and even compete against other players. But is it actually…effective? There are no official studies out there as of yet—but hey, moving around for 30 minutes vs. sitting on your butt certainly can’t hurt.

17. Unleash your inner kid.

Remember the days when you’d dangle on the monkey bars or push your bestie on the tire swing? Turns out those things are still fun today, plus they’re actually a great form of bodyweight training. You can turn any jungle gym routine into the ultimate power workout, all without needing a single free weight or gym membership.

18. Say ‘SUP’ to stand-up paddleboarding.

Sure, it looks good on your Insta, but is this really fun vacation pastime a good workout? Yes. But you’re going to have to work for it. The American Council of Exercise released studies that show that SUP is a great core workout for the abs and lower back when paddling above a light level of exertion. But to challenge the stubborn obliques you’re going to have to go at maximum paddle. Still, even a light cruise around a bay or lake will engage your core.

19. Join a rec league.

Is it really exercise if you’re doing it with your best friends and then grabbing cocktails after? Absolutely. Kickball, dodgeball, softball…anything that gets your heartrate up is exercise, and if you’re laughing and having a healthy competition at the same time, even better.

20. Enlist in a bootcamp.

For some people, a little tough love goes a long way. Bootcamps put your body to the test as trainers lead hardcore, intensive group workout sessions. What makes it fun? You’re seeing drastic results if you stick with it, and also bonding with other people who are in the same boat as you.

There are a wide range of bootcamps out there, from mountain trekking, to intensive yoga, to fitness studios dedicated to the workout style, such as Barry’s Bootcamp.

21. Swing into it.

Carrie Bradshaw made flying through the air on a trapeze look like a blast in Sex & the City—but can it actually make you sweat? Yes. Mastering the trapeze is an insane upper body workout, engaging the core, arms, and back. It also helps improve flexibility to get into those more contorted positions.

22. Go Indo Boarding.

Love a surfer’s body but not so big on actually surfing? No problem. Indo Boarding involves simulating surf motions on dry land to train the body to move and work as if you’re catching waves. It was originally developed to help surfers practice balance and core exercises, but today trainers have crafted surf workouts using the board to help sculpt bodies into those delicious, oil-covered ones that we ogle at the shore all summer long. It’s low-impact and portable so you can do it basically anywhere.

23. Try capoeira.

Capoeira is a beautiful combo of dance and martial arts that originated in Brazil. Today, it’s an all-out trend complete with competitions, amazing Brazilian music, and celebrations afterwards. But in between fast-paced moves, high kicks, and low, quad-activating twirls are a variety of other benefits like strength, flexibility, and cardio.

24. Sculpt your muscles with Pilates.

If you’re into deep core work and fine-tuning muscles, this is your jam. And the cult following surrounding it creates a fun community for people to practice together, compare tips, and show off their Pilates pride.

“Pilates is highly core-focused, but is typically a great way to strengthen and lengthen all the muscles in your body,” adds Riojas.

26. Cycle your heart out.

Love the bike, but live in a big city? Spinning is the perfect alternative if biking outside isn’t an option, and it’s a craze that is very much here to stay. There’s a spin class for every style. FlyWheel pits riders’ scores against each other up on a leaderboard for that added dose of competition, while SoulCycle incorporates high-intensity intervals and dancing to the beat of the music.

25. Hit the barre.

Barre classes are ballet-inspired fitness classes—but no, you don’t have to be a ballerina. The exercises are the same ones that ballerinas do to improve their overall strength, muscle development, and endurance. Barre classes target the butt, abs, legs, and arms, and the exercises are intended to create lean muscle, as well as improve your posture.

26. Go kickboxing.

High energy, fast-paced moves, an engaged core, and an intense upper- and lower-body workout—that’s what you can expect from a cardio kickboxing class. It’s full of momentum, positive group energy, stretching, and a dedicated abs segment.

Plus, the American Council on Exercise shows that one workout can burn between 350 and 450 calories an hour. It’s a great option for people who are looking to torch calories or improve their overall heart strength. It can be as low- or high-impact workout depending on your comfort with the moves, but the more high impact you go, the better a workout you’re going to get.

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