Active Anytime

by Charles Platkin, PhD

The idea is to focus on the enjoyment of being , the feelings of competence and the social interaction that come from the experience. A study in the “International Journal of Sports Psychology” showed that a group who participated in aerobic to improve their physical appearance didn’t stick with it nearly as long as a group who did martial arts because they enjoyed it.

Here are just a few ideas to get yourself moving while having fun.

Going to a park ensures that you do something physical, and whether you’re on a nature walk with the kids or paddling a canoe across a lake, you won’t feel for a moment that you’re getting additional physical activity. Parks make the perfect mini-vacation. With everything from monuments, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and water-skiing, to rock climbing, wildlife observation and caving, all you need is a place to get started. Begin by checking out the government’s Web site at It’s a one-stop shop to learn what activities are available close to your home, from seeing the Washington Monument to visiting the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. “With 388 National Park Service areas and 3,200 federal recreation areas, you’re only a few hours from something to see and stimulate you to be active,” says Charlie Grymes, project manager for He adds that there are 16,741 miles of trails in parks that range in size from one-fifth of an acre to 13.2 million acres. also has links to state tourism sites that offer even more activities. With all this information you can be busy for the rest of the year. Another site to check out if you want to go hiking is, which lists more than 35,000 trails.

Inland and coastal bodies of water occupy 181,518 square miles of the United States, which means a lot of the country’s beach territory comes from our lakes, rivers and even ponds. A day at the beach, whether it be by the ocean or lake, can provide a lot more exercise than you’d think, as long as you don’t spend the whole time on your towel. There’s beach volleyball, Frisbee, Kadima (beach paddle tennis), touch football, swimming, even a nice long stroll. They all burn — not to mention the total body workout you get when you battle the waves. In just a half-hour, here’s how many calories you’d burn:

  • Beach volleyball: 280 calories
  • Frisbee: 105 calories
  • Bodysurfing: 106 calories
  • Touch football: 280 calories
  • Swimming: 300 calories
  • Kadima: 240 calories
  • Kayaking: 176 calories
  • Canoeing: 110 calories
  • Rowing: 246 calories

The zoo is an excellent place to get in some walking in addition to some family time and fun. With almost 200 zoos nationwide, chances are you’re only a short trip away from a day with the animals. You can easily spend a few hours visiting various habitats, and a single hour of leisurely walking burns almost 200 calories. And you’ll burn even more if you’re pushing a stroller. Just make sure to steer clear of any diet disasters your local zoo may be frying up. Pack your own lunch and snacks to ward off hunger.

There’s a bit less walking at an aquarium, but you can still manage to get in a good 20-30 minutes in a visit. Maybe it’s worth buying a membership if you live nearby. Locate a zoo or aquarium in your area by going to:

If you’re not into animals, consider a trip to your local botanical gardens. It’s another great way to get out in the sun and get walking — and a bit more romantic and relaxed than the zoo. Take a walking tour and burn even more calories. For a list of botanical gardens go to:

Sightseeing is another excellent way to sneak in exercise under the guise of entertainment and education. Learn about your city or someplace new while you shed extra pounds. Consider investing in a pedometer, and watch the steps add up! Sightseeing is very distracting. Before you know it, you’ll have walked a few miles.

  • Walking tours: If you live in or near a city, there are probably organized walking tours available. You can take a Vampire Tour in San Francisco, a Ghost Walk tour in Atlanta and a Dead Tour (graveyard walk) in Seattle. Or, if you want to head out solo, you can download tours to your MP3 player at and take your trip whenever you want! offers audio tours narrated by celebrities such as Larry King and Sigourney Weaver transmitted to your cell phone. Currently there are tours for Washington, Boston and New York, but the site is adding 20 new ones in the next year.
  • College or university campuses: There are thousands of colleges and universities in the United States. And universities spend lots of money to create beautiful campuses, which are great for walking and sightseeing. If you want, you could probably even take one of the tours most colleges and universities offer for prospective students. These are much like city walking tours — full of fun facts, anecdotes and historical details. They usually last about 30 minutes. Call ahead to find out when tours are running, and tag along with the pre-freshmen.
  • Company or plant tour: Many companies offer tours of their facilities that are a great way to get exercise and see something interesting. In Seattle you can visit the Boeing Everett factory and see how airplanes are made. Ford Motor Co. also recently invested time and money into designing a comprehensive plant tour that includes a chance to see the employees at work on Ford cars.

There are more than a thousand shopping malls in the United States. Walk the entire mall for a good 30 minutes at moderate speed. The level flooring (fewer injuries) and air conditioning are excellent motivators for using the mall as a walking spot. And you’ll also have the benefit of “people watching” (which makes the time fly) as well as fantasizing about all the great clothes you’ll be able to buy — in a smaller size — when you’ve reached your weight-loss goal. Check to see if your neighborhood shopping mall has any walking programs available. Just think twice before you chow down at the food court.

Art museums also provide comfortable, air-conditioned (or heated) spaces for walking as leisurely as you’d like with plenty of visual stimulation. If you’re up for a full day of art, you can continue to explore on your own, or look for a museum like New York’s Metropolitan, which typically offers up to 15 back-to-back tours a day, each focusing on a specific section of the museum’s vast collection. Organized tours are often free or inexpensive and generally run 30-60 minutes.

If you’re not an art nut, don’t shy away from the museum walk just yet. You may be surprised to find how many interesting places are tucked away out there. There are natural history museums, libraries, planetariums and design museums, all of which offer a place for you to walk. And if those don’t sound appealing, find ones that do. How about a visit to the Museum of Bad Art in Dedham, Mass., or the Mike Weaver Drain Tile Museum in Geneva, N.Y.? A great place to start your search is

AMUSEMENT PARKS Standing in line, chatting with your friends, scrambling into a plastic seat and then screaming your head off as you plunge seemingly hundreds of feet into water — it all burns calories. It may not seem like a workout when you’re waiting for the 50 people ahead of you to take their turns on the Giant Super High Terrifying Roller Coaster of Death, but think about it this way: It’s a lot better than staying home and watching TV. Being outdoors increases your energy level — you move around, go from place to place and avoid the sedentary habits that make you feel more tired than you really are.

A word to the wise: Although going to an amusement park is a great way to get in some outdoor playtime and increase your walking, these places are inevitably crammed with buttery, oily, salty, sugary, no-good, very bad temptation foods. So pack your own healthy snacks.

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