At Corpão Fitness, we are HUGE advocates of staying healthy and fit WITHOUT the gym. It's not that the gym isn't good or that you shouldn't do it, it's just that there are so MANY alternatives out there that challenge your body in more functional ways. This post isn't to put you off the gym, it's to show you how and why certain non-gym alternatives should also be a part of your daily active life.
Why this list?
The best physical activities work the entire body and have four or more of the main categories and subcategories of fitness. Don't know the categories? Don't worry, scroll down to see them explained.
You ideally also want low impact activities as these will be less harsh on your joints (note: that two of the activities on this list are not low impact but deliver such high performance results so they've been included as recommendations provided that you're injury free.)
The list is in no particular order except for Pilates and Yoga - those two are your top recs!
Categories: Alignment, Rehab, Core Control, Coordination, Breathing and Flexibility
Why is Pilates so good?
Nothing else strengthens weak muscles in a low impact way quite like Pilates. I've seen clients who couldn't stand up straight completely change posture from regularly practicing Pilates with me. It is THAT good. The best thing you can do right now is do Pilates once a week. Don't have access to a class? Try a video like the Corpão Fitness one here.
Fitness Categories: Alignment, Core Control, Coordination, Balance, Mental Discipline, Breathing & Flexibility.
Why do Yoga?
You can do it anywhere and it's one of the most versatile physical activities out there. In addition to heightening all the physical areas above, yoga also strengthens the mind-body connection allowing you to improve your mental health. After Pilates, this is the top activity to do.
3. AERIAL SPORTS
Fitness Categories: Total Body Conditioning, Core Control, Balance, Coordination & Alignment
What's special about Aerial?
Aerial is a phenomenal low-impact choice because there is very little bouncing on the floor. It also challenges you to work in different planes of motion (e.g. inversions, rotations, etc.) It's an excellent activity that your body will be surprised by!
Fitness Categories: Total Body Conditioning, Core Control, Coordination & Alignment
Why do Pole?
Pole Sport/Dancing is such a surprisingly challenging workout. It will strengthen your core, upper body and thighs in ways you never thought possible. Weights just rarely achieve what Pole can. Pole is perfect if you're looking for a non-jumping, no-weight option that's fun and creative!
5. KICKBOXING & BOXING
Fitness Categories: Total Body Conditioning, Core Control, Coordination, Balance, Endurance, Breathing, Mental Discipline (Note: Not low impact.)
These two will give you some of the most complete and comprehensive training you can get when it comes to performance! The endurance and strength conditioning involved is unparalleled by the gym. The focus on "soft" foundational areas like Balance and Coordination make this an all-rounder as well giving you a strong base for your gains.
Fitness Categories: Total Body Conditioning, Endurance, Balance and Coordination
This is an excellent, relatively low impact way to train (depending on the trail you choose.) Hiking on uneven terrain is the perfect way to challenge small muscle groups and increase motor coordination and control. Greater inclines are best for more endurance challenges.
Fitness Categories: Total Body Conditioning, Endurance, Balance, Coordination and Core Control
This is full body system workout which requires every physical sense and most muscle groups recruited. Very few gym workouts can target in quite the same way. There is a reason that surfers are ripped!
8. Paddle Boarding
Fitness Categories: Total Body Conditioning, Core Control, Balance and Coordination
What's so good about Paddle Boarding?
Similar to surfing but more accessible to most people, this one recruits multiple muscle groups and tests foundational fitness areas like balance and coordination. It's also an excellent option to use as your workout for the day while on vacation.
Fitness Categories: Total Body Conditioning, Core Control, Balance, Coordination, Breathing & Alignment
Often called the equivalent of "Standing Pilates," Barre challenges you in ways you never imagined. It recruits all the small muscles that you rarely focus on as well as the larger groups. It's incorrectly seen as just lower body training because a good barre workout will incorporate upper body and core exercises as well.
Barre is where I've seen some incredible toning transformations in clients. Practicing barre regularly, just twice a week usually ends up getting you some serious muscle definition and toning. If you don't have access to a class, try a video like the Corpão Fitness Youtube one here.
Fitness Categories: Total Body Conditioning, Breathing, Coordination & Endurance (Note: Not low impact.)
What is it about sprints?
Most of my clients know I'm not a runner. I very much respect and admire runners (I have them as clients) but it's just not for me. I don't enjoy it. However, I would be remiss to not include sprints in this list because they challenge your body's proprioceptive abilities (sense of space around you) in ways that many gym exercises can't.
The constant variation in speed is also one of the best ways to improve the efficiency of your cardiovascular system, thereby building up endurance. Just make sure you have healthy knees and ankles if you're going to do them!
You can see that I've listed the Fitness Categories below for each of the activities recommended. At the start of this post I talked about how the best physical activities include four or more of them - the more the better!
We're often taught that the main fitness categories are cardio, strength and flexibility but these are three of SEVERAL. The main fitness categories are the following: Rehab, Performance and Foundational. The names can vary but essentially to be truly fit and healthy you want to:
If you can do workouts around these three areas every week? You'll be golden! Now, within these categories you have subcategories:
Any good workout plan will include each of these elements. If you need further help understanding them or specific exercises, please do comment below (you can also get in touch direct at email@example.com!)
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