Allow me to preface: I still lift weights, I do not discourage the gym, and running is SPECTACULAR exercise!
However, since those activities are not for everyone, let’s talk about some really neat research that has been coming out about alternative forms of exercise. These are appropriate for all ages, and have all of the same benefits of classic gym work (sometimes even more)!
We can start with a classic standby for me: dance! Its physical benefits are obvious and some of the finest athletes in the world are dancers (just take a look at Baryshnikov or Kelly). Beyond posture, dance’s heavy emphasis on regular movement is a great way to develop cardiovascular endurance, power and strength throughout your core, legs, and arms. This as well improves balance, speed, and agility. A recent study discussed that because of the regular pattern recognition, dynamic nature, and memorization aspects of the choreography of dance, it can actually work against signs of multiple types of dementia to assist memory and problem solving skills! Because of this, you will see a ton of residents in assisted living facilities to high level professional athletes cross train in dance.
Another article was recently released discussing similar benefits to a sport that until recently has fallen out of style: fencing! The article discussed findings of the reactive nature of fencing and other related sports. Fencing provides problem solving, memory benefits, and improved reaction time! Combined with the development of arm and leg coordination, strength, power, and heart health, fencing is another great tool for increasing coordination and maintaining movement skills! Even more out of the box, the French Fencing Federation officially declared polycarbonate illuminated blades (quite reminiscent of Star Wars Lightsabers) to be an official weapon classification for the sport. The Saber Legion and LudoSport are groups around the world who offer some alternative forms of exercise. They host meetings and classes to help people get involved in this great alternative too!
Essentially, if the gym isn’t your thing, that is perfectly okay! There are amazing benefits to staying active in a variety of ways that are very exciting!
Article Written By: Dr. Alec Martinez