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Move With Joy: Non-Traditional Exercises That Put the Fun in Fitness

If you’re filled with fear every time someone extends an invitation to the gym, you’re not alone. The anxiety and loathing that some people feel come from a fraught relationship with exercise that increases as we transition into adulthood. The problem starts when we picture exercise as compulsory—a required activity meant to burn off a set number of calories or a mechanism for meeting arbitrary body ideals. We end up attempting to navigate complicated routines and focusing on the fact that we don’t enjoy what we’re doing, making us more likely to opt-out altogether.

So, what’s the solution? Embracing the philosophy of joyful movement.

Joyful movement is about finding physical activities that make you happy, and giving yourself permission to move your body in a way that truly feels good. When you relate exercise to pleasure instead of punishment, you’re more likely to participate.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for long-distance runs, squats, or weightlifting, if that’s what brings you joy. When embracing joyful movement, all types of movement are valid. Everyone has different abilities and preferences, and your choice should reflect that. Just be sure to assess your motivation for each movement and make distinctions about which ones positively impact your physicality, mental health, and self-confidence. The point is to move for yourself, not just move numbers on a scale.

If you’re ready to reframe your mindset and make working out feel like play again, try these ideas for finding the joy in moving your body.


Turn movement into a meditative experience with an iteration of yoga. Kickstart your morning with sunrise yoga or combine the healing powers of exercise and animals with a goat yoga class.


Fun Runs

Lacing up and hitting the pavement can sound difficult, but fun runs make it a little easier. Themed races, like the Color Run or the Bubble Run, are guaranteed to keep a smile on your face as you trek to the finish line.


Water Sports

Burn calories and bring back memories of summer days spent splashing around with water sports. Try paddle boarding or kayaking to remedy stress, or attempt to perfect your cannonball off the high dive.


Rock Climbing

A versatile sport that you can do inside or outside, rock climbing is an excellent option for people who want a low-impact, exploratory activity that blends strategy with strength.


Jumping Rope

Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of a Double Dutch session. Jumping rope can be an entertaining and challenging way to break a sweat and enhance coordination while staying in one place.


Social Sports

Take up a team sport or activity, like tennis, volleyball, or flag football, to get in shape and connect with your community. You’ll not only reap physical benefits but mental and social ones, too.


Hula Hooping

Embrace your inner child and use this simple piece of equipment to add fun to your fitness routine while also working your cardiovascular system, strengthening your core muscles, and improving your balance.


Roller Skating

Dust off your skates, helmet, and elbow pads, and get rolling around your neighborhood or local park for some fresh air and a full-body, endurance-building workout.



Music is great for getting motivated and lifting your spirits. Whether it’s an instructor-led Zumba class or you’re breaking it down from the privacy of your own home, dancing is a sure-fire way to boost your heart rate and your mood.