3 physical activities that are more fun than the gym

Committing to a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine does wonders for your health. Health organizations around the world recommend balanced nutrition and daily physical activity to prevent a slew of ailments and promote a healthy lifestyle for seniors.

When you think of exercising, you likely imagine running on a treadmill or lifting free weights in the gym. While these more traditional forms of physical activity are excellent options, you don't have to join the gym to exercise regularly. Consider these three hobbies that get your heart pumping without requiring you to step foot in a workout gym. 

1. Handball
This Olympic sport might seem like a random choice, but it's proven to be an effective activity for seniors in Bolivia. According to a photo essay by the Associated Press, groups of older women gather every week to play handball in El Alto, Bolivia.

If you're unfamiliar with the sport, here are the basics. It's essentially like soccer, but for your hands rather than your feet. Players pass the ball to teammates in an effort to score goals against the opposing group.

The country's National Plan on Aging included a program that entails exercise, music therapy, a memory project and free medical care for participants. With roughly 1,000 seniors enrolled in the program, benefits have become apparent. One woman who was interviewed, 77-year-old Rosa Lima, explained how playing handball eases the knee pain she feels from rheumatism. 

Get moving while having fun with salsa dance.Get moving while having fun with salsa dance.

2. Salsa dance
Any type of dance is beneficial to your health, but salsa dancing is especially fun.

In general, dance improves your physical health by increasing balance, muscle tone and bone mass. It can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol while improving mobility and agility. We can't forget about the weight management benefits that come from any physical activity. Dancing can boost your mental health as well. It's a social activity that builds friendships and community. Additionally, it's a relaxing and uplifting hobby for many people.

You might think salsa dancing isn't for you because you've never taken a dance class before. Luckily, there are many beginner classes available that don't require a bit of previous dance training. Everyone there will be trying to "cha cha cha" for the first time right along with you.

The Latino Alzheimer's and Memory Disorders Alliance in Chicago created a dance program called "Bailando por la Salud" or "Dancing for Health" where people salsa dance together to strengthen their hearts and minds. Similarly, Northern Ireland had a six-week program in the mid-2000s called the Actively Aging Well Programme. Older adults partook in activities such as dancing and tai chi throughout the program and saw improved moods and mobility, according to the Anthropology and Aging Quarterly.

"Walking an 18-hole course provides plenty of exercise."

3. Golf
Although golf may seem like a relatively inactive sport, walking along an 18-hole course provides you with plenty of exercise. In most cases, a complete course is about 4 miles long. The American Society of Golf Course Architects discussed how many calories you can burn during one round of golf: roughly 700 if you walk and carry or pull your clubs, about 600 if you walk and have someone else carry your gear and approximately 400 if you ride in the golf cart. In addition to weight and body fat management, playing golf builds your muscle tone and physical endurance. 

This is a great option for physical activity because you can play with a group and socialize. You can even show up at the course and join anyone who could use an extra player. 

Golf is relatively low-risk when it comes to sports injuries, but you should still take a few precautions. Make sure you stretch your back and warm up your swing before the game starts. Either take a few lessons or stick with an experienced golfer as you pick up the sport to ensure you're using proper form, which can go a long way in preventing injury.

You should remain aware of your surroundings to avoid being hit by another player, particularly by standing back when fellow golfers are teeing up. Wear comfortable shoes as well as sunscreen, and don't forget to drink water before, during and after the game.