When it comes to exercise, many of us don't get excited at the prospect of sweating at the gym or running in the park. And let's face it: If you're not energized, it's hard to be motivated to stay active — despite all the research showing physical activity's benefits for weight control and health. Luckily, there are more ways to stay active besides going to the gym, running or biking. The following are less common activities that may sound more exciting to you.
Sailing vs. scuba diving vs. water aerobics
Scuba diving burns the most calories at 490 per hour. Next is water aerobics at 280 calories. And a relaxing sail will burn 210 calories (about 1 1/2 ounces of M&M's). Other water sports also burn calories, but one that is really fun and provides a great upper-body workout is kayaking — you're looking at burning 350 calories per hour (five Oreo Double Stuf Cookies), not to mention building up your shoulders, arms and chest.
Curling vs. fencing
Have you ever heard of curling? It's a team sport played on ice. The goal is to slide a heavy stone into a circular target drawn on the ice. One image that may jog your memory is of a team member using a broom to sweep the ice in front of the stone in order to smooth the surface. Curling is certainly a calorie-burner at 280 calories per hour (about 1 1/4 cups of caramel popcorn with peanuts), but it's no match for fencing: Sparing with swords uses up 420 calories per hour.
Tetherball vs. hopscotch vs. belly dancing
For those who've never heard of tetherball, it involves two players standing on opposite sides of a 10-foot vertical metal pole. Players try to hit a ball hanging from a rope — one aiming clockwise, the other counterclockwise. The player who manages to wind the ball around the pole until there is no slack in the rope is the winner. Play this for an hour, (or an hour of hopscotch) and you'll burn 350 calories before you know it. Belly dancing is a Middle Eastern dance that burns slightly fewer calories — 315 per hour.
Handball vs. rollerblading vs. juggling
Rollerblading and handball burn the same amount of calories — a whopping 840 per hour. Rollerblading is a great way to sightsee, enjoy a park or socialize. Handball requires much less equipment — just a wall and a bouncy rubber ball. Now, juggling is a skill that I could never master; however, if you have the knack — and can keep it going for an hour — you can burn as many as 280 calories (about 11 Hershey's Kisses).
Golf (using a power cart) vs. fishing (in a stream)
Golfing has a few exercise problems. First: Many courses don't allow walking because it slows down the game. Second: All that clubhouse socializing, with lots of drinking and eating, packs on the pounds. And last: Golfing often stops people from doing other forms of more intense activities. Golfing with a cart burns 245 calories an hour (about 1/2 cups premium ice cream), whereas fly-fishing in a stream (including walking in the water wearing waders) burns as much as 420 calories (one slice of pan crust pizza with meats). However, if you ditch the cart (and the clubhouse snacks) you'd be looking at a wonderful exercise burning 315 calories per hour (a fast food cheeseburger). Also, keep in mind that miniature golf and hitting balls at a driving range burn about 210 calories in an hour.
Sexual activity (vigorous) vs. vacuuming or mopping
Sex burns calories, but not nearly as many as you might believe. You're looking at 105 calories (about 1 tablespoon of butter) per hour, and with the average encounter lasting only 12 minutes, including foreplay, there's not much of a burn there. In terms of calories, you might be better off vacuuming or mopping the house, which can burn as many as 245 calories (about 61 Reese's Pieces candies) but probably won't be as much fun.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of www.DietDetective.com.