It’s September and we are officially depressed. Schools are back, traffic is awful, and we are beginning to get even more rain than we did all summer (who knew that was possible…)

But more importantly, summer holidays have played havoc with our waist-lines. The repercussions of summer barbecues, sugary drinks and long-weekends of partying are finally catching up with us.

If you’re anything like us, you will have cut out alcohol, followed a strict diet, and hit the dreaded gym, in anticipation of donning the most dreaded item of clothing imaginable (if you could even call it clothing) aka – swimwear…

All for it to go out the window as soon as we reach the holiday destination – and continue for endless weeks when we get home as we put off heading back to the gym.

But luckily for all those of you who despise running as much as we do (plus we hear it’s bad for your knees, but it’s not like we need an excuse!), we have discovered five fun exercises that burn even more calories than running…

1. Kick-boxing

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A fantastic, high-energy exercise that can lead to some serious calorie-burning sessions, while having fun and leaving you feeling exhilarated and ready for anything. This is a great one to join up for with your mates, with high-intensity kick-boxing sessions burning up to 800 to 900 calories per hour depending on your bodyweight and fitness level.

It combines both upper- and lower-body moves that pack some serious heat into your workout – you’ll be burning calories without even realising it, and adding a full-body workout to your fitness regime!

Other benefits include improved flexibility, endurance, coordination and cardiovascular health benefits! Other enjoyable calorie-bursting alternatives, (whilst also improving your self-defence skills), include martial arts such as judo or karate.

Prokick Kickboxing Club in Belfast provides fantastic beginners classes, as well as advanced beginners. Check out prokick.com for more information on times and classes.

2. Swimming

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There can be no exaggerating how worthwhile taking up swimming can truly be, and is fantastic for all ages with a wide-ranging health or disability issues.

The low-impact exercise gives you a great full-body workout and will help you burn lots of calories! Without even realising! So much better than sweating it out on the treadmill…

Swimming for 30 to 60 minutes per day can also reduce your risk for stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and lower your resting heart rate. The type of swimming activity and intensity level is important to burn the amount of calories you want. For example, 60 minutes of doing the breaststroke will burn around 700 calories in comparison to running at 6 miles per hour (a 10-minute mile), which will burn about 600 calories. A combination of different swimming strokes will burn even more calories with minimal impact on your joints, so you’ll have a much lower risk of injury with swimming than you will with running. It’s also proven to help asthma sufferers, due to the essential breathing techniques – so if you do it often enough on a regular basis, you may start to notice a difference.

Belfast is home to some fantastic leisure centres with terrific pools – including Olympia Leisure Centre, Andersontown Leisure Centre, and a fantastic one at Queen’s PEC to name but a few. Get a Boost card to gain even better value for money.

3. Cycling

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With Belfast’s newly concentrated focus on Belfast Bikes and big plans for even better, bigger bike routes in the near future, we are loving the idea of hopping on our bikes (quite literally) to get to and from work. Meaning we will be burning the calories, avoiding the frustrating traffic, and actually getting some fresh air instead of staying stuck in a stuffy office all day long. In addition to all important savings from not having to fork over huge amounts of cash for petrol and parking.

If you engage in cycling for an hour at a 14-16 mph pace, you can burn around 700 calories. There are many variables that can change the amount of calories you can expect to burn, such as how much you currently weigh and whether you’re cycling on a stationary bike or on a trail with varying elevations and resistance, but either way you can expect to feel the burn.

In addition, biking puts a lot less stress on your knees, ankles and spine than going for a run does. The Lagan towpath which also takes you along the Ormeau Embankment is a particularly beautiful bike-route, and is hugely popular amongst cyclists during brighter evenings and weekends (when it’s not raining, obviously).

Check out Belfast Bike Tours and Bike Hire at belfastbiketours.com/bike_hire/ for any more information, as if you need any more incentives to start pedalling.

4. Strength Training

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One that used to be seen as ‘just for the boys’ strength training has seen a massive surge in popularity as we strive for that highly-coveted toned look. With a major surge of fitness fanatics popping up on social media, showing us how to lift muscles and build all-important lean muscle, rather than ‘bulking up.’ Plus the interval training involved makes this far more enjoyable – go with mates to the gym and when you’re really confident, you could even start sharing your tips and videos with the massive online following.

Strength training is a great way to burn calories and gain muscle mass, which also results in an increased metabolism, enabling you to burn even more calories. In fact, strength training can provide up to a 15 percent increase in your metabolic rate (which in theory means you can eat more, right?)

Depending on the intensity of your workout, strength training involving kettlebells can burn up to 900 to 1,000 calories per hour, for instance.

Check out Northern Ireland’s very own beautiful gym and fitness guru Peanut Butter Girl online at thepeanutbuttergirl.com or follow her Facebook page for her amazing pictures and videos, including fantastic dietary advice and how to make delicious yet healthy snacks.

5. Team Sports

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Playing sports is a great option for a full-body workout, and you can recruit your friends to play with you! Playing racket sports or basketball can burn high calories running around the court with high-powered bursts, followed by periods of rest that mimics interval training. Depending on factors such as intensity level, fitness level and weight, you can expect to burn anywhere from 400 to 700 calories per hour while playing touch football or basketball.

Other fun sports you can enjoy with your mates include blasts from the past like rounders, or go more obvious with tennis or rowing – all of which can burn around 500 calories! Much better than getting red-faced galloping around the streets or nearly falling off the treadmill at the dreaded gym.

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The YMCA in Belfast has fantastic gym facilities, whilst the Indoor Tennis Arena and Ozone Complex has the more typical facilities such as tennis – in addition to more ‘out-there’ sports such as rock-climbing, whilst Queen’s PEC has trampolining! These are all a great laugh, and you don’t even realise you are actually burning calories too. Result!

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