In a society where so much emphasis is placed on a person’s physical appearance, exercise is often viewed as a mechanism to achieve a more attractive body. Just browse the #fitspo hashtag (an abbreviation for fitness inspiration) on Instagram if you don’t believe me.
In the past, I exercised irregularly, often in response to stress or subsequent stress eating. However, I wanted to start exercising more consistently for my overall health, as physical exercise has been shown to be beneficial in many ways, such as encouraging the growth of cells in the area of the brain that controls anxiety. To get on track, I tried a different type of exercise every day for one week to figure out what works best for me.
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Day 1: Zumba
What Is It: Zumba infuses Latin dance moves with cardio for a workout that combines low- and high-intensity intervals.
My Take: I discovered that I cannot pull off those Latin moves. At all. I definitely felt that I was thoroughly exercising my body, especially because my instructor incorporated a lot of squats, but it probably won’t be my first choice for fitness simply because I didn’t enjoy it very much.
Day 2: Tabata/HIIT
What Is It: Tabata is sometimes aptly referred to as High-Intensity Interval Training
My Take: I can definitely see myself integrating Tabata workouts into my fitness routine. What busy individual can say no to a workout that exercises your whole body and leaves you feeling energized in fewer than 10 minutes?
Day 3: Spinning
What Is It: In a spin class, you get a workout by pedaling at various intensities on indoor bikes.
My Take: Since I tend to favor aerobic exercise, it came as no surprise to me that I really enjoyed spinning! The varied intensities and positions kept the class exciting, and the group environment really pushed me to my limits.
Day 4: Rest Day
Don’t feel bad about giving yourself a rest day. It’s important to take a day off to allow your body time to recover in order to prevent injury.
Day 5: Aqua Fitness
What Is It: Aqua Fitness is a cardio workout that takes place underwater, which provides muscular resistance.
My Take: As I suspected, Aqua Fitness was the type of class in which I would see older individuals participate at the shallow end of my community pool. After trying it out, I can see why—the water both cushions your joints and provides resistance. I don’t know if I would continue this class specifically, but I think I would try to pick up swimming again.
Day 6: Pump and Sculpt
What Is It: Pump and Sculpt is a resistance training class that incorporates the body’s own weight, dumbbells, barbells, and exercise balls.
My Take: Despite my prior misgivings about weight-lifting, I enjoyed this class much more than I expected, probably because of the instructor’s focus on safety. She reminded students to breathe, drink water, and exercise at your own pace rather than sacrificing posture. I even surprised myself by needing heavier weights than what I started out with. Since strength conditioning is important, I think I will start incorporating more resistance training.
Day 7: Yoga
What Is It: Yoga emphasizes breath control and the transition between poses to promote flexibility and stability.
My Take: I’ve taken yoga classes in the past and have always enjoyed it. This time was no exception. I felt very relaxed and relished the opportunity to stretch my body out. Afterward, I felt refreshed and ready to take on the rest of my day!
Seeing major changes in energy, focus, or mood would require a consistent exercise schedule that lasts longer than a week. Still, I went out of my comfort zone and discovered what I enjoyed and what I never want to do again. Approaching exercise with the mindset of improving myself rather than becoming thinner actually felt different—I felt empowered rather than demeaned. Exercise for yourself and not anyone else!