Self-determination is an important part of any exercise program or healthy habit. It would help if you found something that you enjoy doing, that you can get good at, and that will make you want to keep coming back for more.
For many people, going to the gym to lift weights is boring, unappealing, or just not their thing. If that sounds like you, don’t worry—you can still get a great workout without ever setting foot in a gym.
For a fun, challenging, and outdoorsy workout, try horseback riding.
A Whole-Body Workout
If you’ve never been on a horse before, you might not consider it a particularly strenuous activity. You’re just sitting there while the horse does all the running around.
But the truth is, horseback riding is an excellent workout for your whole body. Your legs and core muscles have to work hard to stay in the saddle, and your arms get a workout from steering the reins.
It’s also a great, heart-pumping cardio workout that’ll significantly increase your energy expenditure. After just 18 minutes of riding, there are noticeable improvements in skeletal muscle mass and body fat.
Improving Your Balance and Mobility
Beyond just building muscle and burning fat, hippotherapy (horseback riding therapy) can improve your balance, mobility, gait (walking capability), and posture. These effects can be especially beneficial for older adults and people with movement disorders.
For example, in one study of recovering stroke survivors who participated in hippotherapy, horseback riding provided them with an experience they described as life-changing—not only giving them a pleasurable experience that improved their mobility, the therapy had a profound impact on their emotional state and quality of life.
Horseriding For Mental Health
In addition to being a great physical workout, horseback riding can induce hormonal and neurological changes that can be therapeutic for your mental health.
First of all, horseback riding is fun. It reduces stress and makes you feel good.
The connection with the horse also provides a sense of companionship and social support, which can be beneficial for people who are living with anxiety disorders.
It can also boost your sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem. As you learn the skill of horseback riding and discover how to communicate with the horse effectively, you gain increased confidence in yourself and your abilities. This can spill over into other areas of your life and help you recover from illness, pursue other goals, and face challenges more confidently.
So, give horseback riding a try if you’re looking for a fun, challenging, and beneficial workout that doesn’t involve a gym. There are probably places nearby where you can take riding lessons or go on a guided trail ride. You might just find that you enjoy it so much that you make it a regular part of your exercise routine.