7 Fun Alternative Workouts

alternative workouts

Are you tired of waiting in line at the gym for the next machine?

Does rush hour in the weights room feel like squashing into the subway for work?

If so, join the club.

It can be difficult to motivate yourself to exercise in the sterile surroundings of a gym. Running on a treadmill facing the wall, tripping over weights scattered around the room.

A sweaty testosterone filled exercise space does little to inspire your inner cavewoman (or caveman :).

Not to mention the financial burden of a 12-month gym contract.

Along with the rise in popularity of functional workouts and primitive training methods, there’s been an upsurge in alternative workouts.

Learning a new skill, meeting new people and getting a full body workout create a sustainable exercise routine that’s a great substitute for a traditional gym session.

So what are you waiting for?

Why functional exercise is better

Once upon a time, companies like Nautilus conquered the health industry by telling people they had cracked the code to effective strength training.

Gyms just had to buy their machines and patrons could watch their muscles grow with specific, isolated movements.

Have you ever sat in one of the machines and felt that you weren’t getting the best workout possible?

Well, you’re probably right.

A criticism of resistance machines is that your movements are not representative of daily life activities.

Therefore using them for strength and conditioning may not be your best bet.

This has seen cults like CrossFit leading the functional exercise charge.

Functional exercise actually takes its roots in the rehabilitation space, and working as a Physical Therapist I have used targeted, functional exercise for years to help patients return to their lives and jobs as normal.

So, while the following exercise suggestions may not make you bullet proof, they include every day movements to help your conditioning, guard against injury, and let you have some fun at the same time!


Parkour is an exercise performed in cities around the world, where railings, walls and buildings form a huge outdoor playground and exercise space.

Developed from military obstacle courses, the goal is to move as efficiently as possible, using momentum and your surroundings for propulsion.

Movements include running, jumping, swinging, vaulting, climbing and rolling in any combination to traverse a path from A to B.

In many ways the sport mimics ancient movement patterns, giving you Tarzan-like powers in a contemporary setting.

Paddle boarding

Paddle boarding is one of the fastest growing water sports and best alternative workouts. Combining strength training, balance, cardio fitness and flexibility, it’s a minimal impact, full body workout.

All of your muscles, including your toes and neck, are working simultaneously to keep you on the board, while your core is in overdrive to initiate spinal rotation during paddling and maintain the forward movement of the board.

Add in the unstable surface and a few gusts of wind and you have one killer workout.


Have you ever watched the film? If so, you know how fun dodgeball is. Aside from pelting balls at your friends, dodgeball offers a host of health benefits.

Agility is a useful skill for many sports, but in dodgeball reacting and moving quickly is the difference between sitting on the sidelines and helping your team win.

Coordination and balance are essential attributes for any player hoping to stay on their feet long enough to try and eliminate the opposition.

Ultimate Frisbee

Ultimate Frisbee is a both sociable and surprisingly tiring. Having experienced the sport for the first time recently, I found the sprinting, lunging and jumping to evade opponents and receive the Frisbee constituted an intense workout.

While many cardio workouts are performed in a straight line and single plane of movement, the twisting, turning and explosiveness required to create space will have you gasping for air.

While the sport is competitive, it remains contact free and a great option for players of all abilities.

Hula hooping and Poi

alternative workouts Hula hooping and Poi are two of the most alternative workouts you can try.

Using weighted hula-hoops to craft enviable abs is a common celebrity workout, with a notable endorsement from Kelly Osbourne, who recommends hooping for 10 minutes a day.

Combining hooping with lunges, walking or running can add an extra dimension to your workout.

Poi is another popular hippy workout that’s both mentally calming and physically challenging.

Twirling strings with weighted spheres on one end, you can spin to your heart’s delight and make a variety of pretty shapes.

Creating smooth, fluid movement is the goal of the technique, which necessitates core control and a healthy dose of hand eye coordination.

When you get really good you can even try fire poi!

Tai Chi

Tai Chi conjures images of wise Chinese men moving gracefully in a park at 6am, but this ancient Chinese tradition has since become an important facet of modern exercise routines.

Focusing on the relationship between mind and body, the meditative benefits of Tai Chi provide an antidote to faster paced, intensive forms of exercise.

Slow, controlled circular movements improve upper and lower body strength while the effect on proprioception, the body’s balance mechanism, has been shown to reduce the risk of falls in the elderly.

Although Tai Chi won’t prove much of an aerobic workout, the ability to centre your mind and control your body will leave you feeling as refreshed as a floating Shaolin monk.

Salsa Dancing

Dancing not only provides a stern workout, but also an opportunity to live la vida loca with some hip twists and turns. In Latin America, Salsa is an important part of culture, providing a vehicle to develop relationships in a social setting.

In addition to raising your heart rate and burning through calories, it’s a great exercise in standing tall and improving posture. Keeping the chin tucked, shoulders back and chest out promotes excellent breathing, and synchronisation through the kinetic chain.

As well as developing buns of steel, the emotional benefits of salsa can’t be underestimated. Just try dancing without smiling, it’s scientifically impossible.

Want to try these alternative workouts?

Repetitive workouts in the gym or at home are mentally exhausting, and such one-dimensional routines can deter you from exercising altogether. Working out in a new environment is the perfect way to stimulate mind and body.

The functional exercises described provide a healthy mixture of cardiovascular fitness, strength, balance and agility training, mimicking many integral movements of daily life.

These alternative workouts also include a meditative component, permitting a Zen state of mind where you can emerge reinvigorated and centred.

So, what’s stopping you?

Give one of these alternative workouts a try today.


Have you tried one of these workouts before? Or are there any others you would recommend? Answer in the comments.


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