Fitness Shouldn’t Be a Four-Letter Word


Fitness Shouldn’t Be a Four-Letter Word

I dread workouts. Once I’m in, they aren’t so bad, but each day, five days per week, it’s a mental sweat for me just to convince myself to start a workout, and if I opt out, I feel guilty. Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s okay to drop the “function” for “fun.”

Fitness-life balance

The buzzwords in today’s workplace include “work-life balance.” The phrase refers to the need for workers to have enough personal time outside of work so they are effective, engaged, and motivated workers while at work.

I argue that the same balance is necessary for your workouts to be effective, when considering fitness and your life. In fact, the stakes are perhaps higher when it comes to your workout and fitness choices, because unfocused and disinterested workouts can result in injury.

Find strength in sport and health in hobby

I’m often asked this question by readers and clients alike: “What is the best exercise to keep you heathy?” What do you think it is? CrossFit? Barre class? Yoga? High-intensity interval training? Low-impact steady-state training?

For me, the answer is simple:

The best exercise to keep you healthy is the exercise that you’ll actually do!

There is a well-established and commonly understood connection between exercise and positive mental health. Less studied and understood is the significant positive correlation between positive mental health and exercise adherence. But, sure enough, it works both ways!

This means that just as some people can spiral downward into negative mental and physical health, they can also lift themselves upward toward positive mental and physical health! The key is to find an activity that you enjoy doing and that still gives you bang for your buck.

Healthiest hobbies

To get it out of the way, I’ll just answer the question you’re too embarrassed to ask: Tiddlywinks only burns about 30 calories per hour. But don’t let that discourage you! There are plenty of hobbies that don’t happen in a gym that are fun and healthy.

Here’s a taste of some fun activities, caloric expenditure, and physical benefits (which, as we know, also carry mental health benefits).


Gripping, bending, walking, lifting, stretching: gardening has it all, not to mention the mental benefits of taking care of plants, the mental exercise of planning over space and time, vitamin D, and fresh air. And you can burn a similar number of calories as you would at a fitness facility—“… there is a gym outside many a window,” as Sir Richard Thompson, past president of the Royal College of Physicians in London, UK, once said.


Depending on your sex, whether you walk or ride a golf cart, and how many holes you play (not to mention how many balls you have to go looking for), you can burn between 531 and 2,467 calories, on average, per 18 holes. Include hand-eye coordination, core strengthening, and “one-with-nature” benefits, and you’ve got one heck of a healthy hobby!


The average 65-year-old burns about 350 calories per 60-minute doubles match. Not only that, but cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility, and hand-eye coordination are all challenged in this most enjoyable tennis adaptation.


Yep! You heard right. A grandmaster chess player (world elite player) can burn up to 6,000 calories per day, due to increased breathing rates, blood pressure, and muscle contractions (also known as a stress response). I can’t vouch for physical benefits, but there’s no doubt it is mental exercise at its finest.

Are you nutrient deficient?

The good news is that you can get all of the vitamins, minerals, and macro- and micro-nutrients that you need from your diet. The bad news is that around one in three people are nutrient deficient in at least some area of their diet. Check with your health care practitioner to determine if you might be deficient and if you might benefit from supplementation.

Drop by your local health food or vitamin store and ask them about daily supplements, including multivitamins, powdered greens, protein powders, and creatine (which provides a multitude of potential health benefits).

Inflammation is the enemy

While boiling down overall quality of health to one key factor may be reductionist, recent scientific literature has attempted to do just that, and with convincing supporting data. Chronic inflammation, caused by things such as dietary influences, environmental exposures, and mental stress, appears to be at the root of many leading diseases, including those of the heart and other organs.

The solution? Eat better, be active, and do more of the things you love.

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