May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, an annual observance that seeks to highlight the importance of staying healthy and active through participating in sports or other physical activities. The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports began its work back in the 1950s after a study found that European children were more active than their U.S.-based counterparts. The effort sought to promote healthy lifestyles for all Americans, young and old—a goal still going strong today.
Throughout May, the celebration is marked by community events like National Ride Your Bike to School day, all of which serve to motivate people to think outside of the box when it comes to moving around.
Gym boredom is a real thing, and it can quickly cause even the most motivated exercisers to fall into a rut. What better time than National Physical Fitness and Sports Month to try something a little different? Here are some new ideas to compel you to #MoveinMay, and all year long.
Try a team sport
If you’re sick of walking around the block or jogging on the treadmill, try participating in a team sport this month. Playing sports increases social bonds. A 2015 study published in the journal PLOS One found that exercise and social bonding may have a reciprocal effect. And just because you’re not an elite athlete doesn’t mean you can’t reap all the benefits of social exercises.
Join a league: You don’t need to be a competitive athlete to join a team. If you miss your school days spent playing soccer or softball, sign up for a local adult league. Even recess standbys like kickball and dodgeball have become popular in recent years. Dodgeball, for example, is a solid form of anaerobic exercise that can do wonders for your agility and balance.
Go dancing: Dancing may not be what first comes to mind when you think of the word “sport,” but this activity is a great way to build strength, burn some calories and have fun in a social setting. Sign up for a class or see if your area has salsa, line or ballroom dancing nights.
Shoot some hoops: Not sure about joining a league? Play some one-on-one or three-on-three. All you need is a basketball and proximity to a hoop, and you’re ready for some cardio. Just make sure you warm up beforehand, as basketball can put stress on your muscles and joints.
Mix it up with solo activities
Not all of us are big “ball sports” people—and that’s okay. But just because you were never a jock doesn’t mean that physical fitness isn’t your thing. As the weather gets warmer, there are plenty of options to keep you moving, whether you’re playing the lone wolf or bringing a buddy along for extra motivation. Trail running can give you a serious workout that targets everything from your core to your quads and calves. Surfing can help you improve your shoulder and back strength, work out your leg and core muscles, and boost your cardiovascular fitness a la paddling.
If rowing, rock climbing and hiking aren’t part of your typical fitness strategy, that’s all the more reason to try them this month. To achieve better health, you should work a variety of exercises into your routine. You need both aerobic exercise—think cardio activities like biking, running and swimming—and anaerobic exercises, which are more about resistance and strength training.
Take a fitness class
Trying a new fitness class can be a great intro to the world of physical activity. You’ll benefit from the group energy and a trained instructor who can shepherd you through unfamiliar yoga poses or complicated dance moves.
From SoulCycle to barre classes, Orangetheory and beyond, many of today’s popular fitness options cost a prettier penny than, say, taking Zumba at the local Y. Some of the amenities—fresh towels kissed by essential oils, high-end bikes and a trendy environment—can perhaps bring some extra motivation to the table. But you’re not gaining any more muscle or burning any more fat than you would in a cheaper class. For the budget-minded exerciser, Class Pass is often cheaper than a gym membership but with so many more options.
Regardless of price, there may be some benefits associated with group classes rather than going it alone. A study from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, for instance, found that medical students taking group fitness classes felt less stressed than their peers who exercised alone.
In the world of fitness, variety is everything. And with National Physical Fitness and Sports Month upon us, there’s never been a better time to work new muscles, make more fitness friends and shake up your routine in favor or something new. Your body is home to more than 600 muscles, and when you keep to the same exercises day-in and day-out, you’re missing out on a chance to target areas of your body that might otherwise be overlooked by your treadmill sessions, leg days and arm days.