Making Exercise Fun

Do you love exercise? If you're like many people I know, maybe the answer is "not so much." Maybe you do it simply because you think you should to lose weight. But two recent studies concluded that exercise does not cause weight loss. So should you skip exercise and just focus on what you eat? Not so fast. Remember, exercise affords tremendous benefits to overall health and well-being, including heart health, bone health, and for me, personally, mental health.

Rarely do you ever hear a person say, "I wish I didn't work out." But how often do you hear "I feel guilty I didn't make it to the gym"? In reality exercise shouldn't be a chore, but instead something that makes you feel good before, during, and after. Some people I know really love going to the gym; for them, a workout of lifting weights and doing cardio machines is perfect. For others, the gym is boring or makes them uncomfortable.

Below are some fresh ideas to get you moving:

Pilates. Developed by Joseph Pilates, the method emphasizes the balanced development of the body through core strength and flexibility. Moves are done either on a mat or on the Reformer, resistance equipment specific to a Pilates studio. Years ago, I did Pilates and can honestly say that I have never worked my abdomen like I did on the Reformer.

Spinning. If you like to get your heart rate up and enjoy cycling, spinning is a win-win. Before I discovered yoga (we'll get to that below), I was a devoted spinner. I loved the energy of the room and camaraderie with the other cyclists. If I was still into spinning today, I guess the question would be whether I would choose Flywheel or SoulCycle. If you live in NYC, Chicago, or Miami you know what I'm talking about, as they're the trendiest spinning studios around, trendier than even some restaurants or clubs. Flywheel has developed the TorqBoard, an in-studio display that provides riders with the option to compare their performance against the rest of the class in real-time. To me, this sounds very cool--perhaps because I'm very competitive. I've heard the instructors teach very challenging classes, set to high-energy music. SoulCycle also has very challenging classes, which are taught in rooms lit by candles; supposedly the environment is exceptional. The cycling routine incorporates both upper body and core workouts.

Walking. So simple, it really doesn't get any easier. Walking is free and can be done anywhere and at any temperature (just dress for it). I suggest buying a pedometer to record your steps, aiming for 10,000 per day. Sometimes walking for a cause that's close to your heart (such as cancer or diabetes) is motivating and will get even couch potatoes moving.

Yoga. As an avid practitioner for more than 12 years, I've found no other form of exercise to be more rewarding or challenging than yoga. Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram, and Anasura are just some of the many varieties available. You may need to try different types and different teachers before finding the right fit.

Zumba. If you like to dance, Zumba is for you. The Latin dance-inspired fitness program was created by dancer and choreographer Alberto "Beto" Perez in Colombia during the 1990s, and is definitely hot at the moment. I've never tried it, but my patients who do it swear by it.

The list can go on and on: boot camp, pole dancing, bowling, tennis, ping-pong (yes--this counts), running, swimming, fencing, basketball, TRX suspension training, CrossFit, and more. Nowadays, there are so many ways to get in the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week; you simply need to discover what's best for you. Once you find something you love to do, these tips can help keep you motivated:

1. Grab a buddy. When you know a friend, family member, or even a pet (running partner) is counting on you, it's much harder to cancel.

2. Schedule it. Make time, don't "find time." Schedule an appointment, just as you would with a doctor or dinner with friends. Then stick to it.

3. Set out your exercise clothes. Keep them by your bedside, so as soon as you open your eyes in the morning, they're there as motivation.

4. Bring your clothes with you. Go straight to the gym from work to increase your chances of actually getting there.

Remember, when it comes to physical activity, anything is better than nothing; and hopefully, the more you do, the more you will want to continue. If you're doing nothing, adding just 15 minutes per day is a great start.

Question: "What type of exercise is best?" Answer: "The one that you stick with."

Hungry for more? Write to with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian, media personality, spokesperson, and author of The Small Change Diet. Gans's expert nutrition advice has been featured in Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self and Shape, and on national television and radio, including The Dr. Oz Show, Good Morning America, ABC News, Primetime, and Sirius/XM Dr. Radio.