Women

Some of your playful pastimes may actually count as legit workouts. Oh, joy!

Tossing a Frisbee. Hitting the dance floor. Crushing your friend in Wii tennis. They're all great ways to pass the time and let off some steam, but it turns out that some of your favorite hobbies might qualify as actual exercise too.

Even light physical activities-things you view as more fun and leisurely than "fitness"- can reduce stress, punch up your metabolism, and add years to your life. They can also help speed up recovery from traditional workouts and ease sore muscles.

Now, don't go canceling your trainer just yet: Eighteen holes of mini golf or tug-of-war with your pooch doesn't necessarily match the muscle-building, fat- blasting potential of a 20-minute strength workout. But there may be ways to turn your hobby into a genuine sweat session.

Bowling

Fun. Let's be real: Your activity consists of walking 10 feet with a (maybe) 10-pound ball, and then sitting back down.

Game changer: You could use the ball as a free weight- busting out biceps curls and goblet squats-but that would look sillier than your rental shoes. So don't force it. But do focus on your form: Keep your upper body straight (rather than leaning to the side) to engage your core, and lower your body as you release the ball (rather than bending at the waist, granny-style) to get your legs in on the action. More important, skip the beer and nachos between frames, which quickly unravel any subtle benefits.

Your activity consists of walking 10 feet with a (maybe) 10-pound ball, and then sitting back down.

Your activity consists of walking 10 feet with a (maybe) 10-pound ball, and then sitting back down.

Virtual Sports

Fitness. No joke, some video games can actually sub for a decent workout.

Game changer: The top games use your whole body to control on-screen movement, says Elizabeth DiRico, an exercise physiologist and author of a 2009 study on active video games. "Choose ones that have you punching, swinging, squatting, or moving side to side," she says. According to another study on Wii sport games, boxing demanded the most effort, with baseball and tennis ranking as moderate activity. Buddy up for bonus points: Playing with someone in the room can prompt you to work harder than you would with a virtual competitor.

Fetch with Fido

Fun. Your dog is the one running after the ball, right? If you just stand and wait, even a big throw doesn't amount to much.

Game changer: While research suggests that pet owners get more exercise than those without pets, the exercise is typically consistent and active, like daily walks. But ball tossing can benefit you too, if you get yourself in the game, says Jill Bowers, a personal (and dog) trainer at Thank Dog! Bootcamp in Los Angeles. Carry a toy or stick and run, shuffle, or backpedal with your dog in tow, changing movements every 30 seconds. After one minute, launch the toy and bang out five pushups before your dog brings it back.

Your dog is the one running after the ball, right?

Your dog is the one running after the ball, right?

Softball

Fun. Even if you're Ms. MVP, you'll sit for almost half of a softball game.

Game changer: That's not to say you can't get a little more out of each inning. Playa position that sees lots of action, like shortstop: "Every ground ball you try to catch is like a squat," says Maryann Macari, softball director at Chelsea Piers Connecticut in Stamford. While on the sidelines, spend extra time practicing: Taking swings, for example, hones your balance and targets your core, particularly those hard- to-hit oblique.

Dancing

Depends. Details matter here: Slow-dancing at a wedding is a far cry from a salsa lesson or a booty-shaking night at a club.

Game changer: You can absolutely reach an aerobic zone while dancing (think Zumba), but it's not a given. Especially while dancing socially, where there are tons of breaks (you're not trying to work up a sweat, after all). "Prolonged effort is key," says DiRico, who suggests dancing dips into the fitness category if you maintain a five-minute, break-free interval while grooving to a fast-paced beat.

Slow-dancing at a wedding is a far cry from a salsa lesson or a booty-shaking night at a club.

Slow-dancing at a wedding is a far cry from a salsa lesson or a booty-shaking night at a club.

Beach Volleyball

Fitness. Unless you're cowering in the back row, a casual beach (or backyard) match can be a valid workout.

Game changer: Even with two left feet and an awful serve, you're constantly squatting, diving, jumping, and hitting, says Randy Cline, coach and owner of Ohio's Elite Volleyball Training Center. Sand courts amp up the intensity. "You get much more resistance with each step, so your legs and core work harder with every move."

Golfing

Depends. Reaching into a bucket at the driving range or zooming around in a cart does not score fitness points.

Game changer: Golf takes some serious skill, but aerobic benefits come from the hole-to-hole trek. One study found that golfers on courses with rolling terrain spent up to 84 percent of the game in a moderate-intensity exercise zone. And carry your clubs: The researchers also found that toting golf bags contributed to the benefits.

Reaching into a bucket at the driving range or zooming around in a cart does not score fitness points.

Reaching into a bucket at the driving range or zooming around in a cart does not score fitness points.

Frisbee Toss

Depends. A little back-and- forth won't burn a ton of cals, but a competitive session will.

Game changer: Ultimate Frisbee leagues have sprung up across the country (find one near you at usaultimate.org); players dive, jump, and pass the disk into an end zone. It's a great workout, says Melissa Witmer, founder of Ultimate Results in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. You don't need to join a team; use Ultimate Frisbee as inspiration and send your bud tough-to- catch leading passes.

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