Physical activity is an important part of wellness—not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Research has long shown the benefits of exercise in improving mood, particularly for older adults and people diagnosed with depression. Many people include specific physical activities in their WRAP. However, as the WRAP Red Book stresses, the most important thing is for your fitness routine to be something you enjoy.
Every so often, we need to change up our fitness routines. You might be suffering from a nagging injury. You might no longer be able to fit time-intensive activities into your schedule—particularly if your favorite activity requires traveling somewhere or setting up equipment. Sometimes you get burned out on a routine. Where I live, we just had our first freezing temperatures, which can send people looking for new ways to keep in shape while staying indoors.
If you live somewhere where the weather is getting colder, there are still many options for physical activity, many of which are free or low cost. Consider borrowing yoga or other exercise DVDs from the library, walking laps at a shopping mall, or climbing stairs. To help motivate yourself, you can take on a challenge to do a certain number of exercises such as squats or sit-ups every day. You might also be able to purchase a used stationary bike or another piece of exercise equipment inexpensively.
If you’d like to get out and meet others, you don’t necessarily need to pay for a gym membership. Many churches and community centers offer free or inexpensive exercise classes. You can also check with your local department of parks and recreation or YMCA/YWCA. One great option is water aerobics: If you don’t like the solitary routine of swimming, you can still get a great workout in the pool, and the classes give you the opportunity to socialize. Some more exotic ideas include rock climbing gyms or trampoline parks—the possibilities are endless!
For our friends in the southern hemisphere or in locales with mild winters, now might be the time to rethink outdoor activities. Again, there are alternatives to the most popular activities like running, bicycling, hiking, and swimming. Many animal shelters need volunteers to walk dogs, for example, and the same organizations that offer indoor activities usually offer outdoor options. There are no limits to fitness activities—everything from cross-country skis with wheels to slacklines that help improve balance.
I’ve found that I can get a great workout from gardening. If you don’t have your own space for gardening, many localities offer free or low-cost space at community gardens. The best part about gardening for exercise is that your hard work will pay off more than once. The adage about planting a ten-cent plant in a ten-dollar hole is true. If you put in the effort to turn the soil and dig in compost, you will have not only a healthier body but a healthier garden.
Do you have any new or unusual ideas for incorporating physical activity into your WRAP? Help the WRAP community by sharing those ideas on our Facebook page.
Alan Marzilli, J.D., M.A., is a senior writer/program associate at Advocates for Human Potential (AHP). His work focuses primarily on homelessness, mental health and substance use disorder services, cannabis regulation, and employment services.