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6 Fun Activities That Count As Exercise

When you're caring for someone else, it seems there aren't enough hours of the day to get everything done. Of all the things you want to do in your "spare time," exercise might be the last activity on your list. Yet out of all the activities you could do, exercise may be the most beneficial because it can keep you from getting sick, help you sleep better, and increase energy throughout the day.

But if it feels like one more chore or routine that you don't look forward to, you are less likely to follow through on your good intentions. The good news is, you don't have to work out at the gym 5 days a week to get in shape. Although all exercise takes some effort, it doesn't always have to feel like work. So find some help watching mom or dad for a few hours a week, and take care of yourself.

Here are 6 ideas for ways to help make exercise feel more like fun, and less like work:

1) Enlist a friend

Find someone to be your exercise buddy. Don't choose just anyone: Pick someone who is full of energy, fun and who you look forward to spending time with. That way, you'll want to exercise just to be with your friend. Look for someone who's more committed than you, so they can keep you motivated.

2) Group Fitness

Group classes are a way to meet new people, and be motivated to go each time. Local Parks and Recreation departments or Community Centers offer low-cost group exercise programs, such as yoga, tai chi, step aerobics and water exercise classes. They are a great way to improve flexibility, muscle tone and relaxation.

3) Take a Lesson

Get outside and learn a new skill. Book a golf or tennis lesson, and get to swinging. You'll not only burn calories, you'll also learn new skills and have fun.

4) Dance

Dance your way to better health. Square dancing or ballroom dancing are excellent ways to increase endurance and improve balance. The latest dance exercise craze is Zumba, a combination of Latin dance and exercise moves. Dancing enhances cardiovascular function and endurance, while practicing muscle memory routines effectively exercises the whole body. And simply put, it's fun.

5) Hang Out With the Kids

Drag the kids away from their cell phones and computers, and start a game of basketball, soccer or baseball. Form teams, make it a weekly competition, hold practice sessions, and maybe even come up with some prizes for the winners at the end of the "championship series."

6) Play Games

Think hanging out in front of the TV with a remote in your hand doesn't qualify as exercise? It does if you're playing a fitness game, like Wii Sports. Wii tennis consumes 179 calories per hour, and Wii boxing 174. Of course, those numbers are a fraction of the real-world activities (tennis is 318 calories per hour, and punching a boxing bag is 382) but its better than if you had lounged on the couch munching on a bag of chips.

Exercise is Crucial for Caregivers

Of course, playing Wii doesn't really count as a balanced exercise regimen. Your goal is 30 to 40 minutes of moderately intense exercise three or more times a week – but every bit counts. So give yourself credit for seemingly small accomplishments, cut yourself some slack and have fun!

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