By Omar Shamout

While dating is technically supposed to be fun, in reality, it's kinda hard work. In the early phases, the stress of waiting for phone calls, the anxiety over what to wear or how to do your hair, the tension of awkward silences during the calamari appetizer—all can be brutal on the ol' ticker. Later on, trying to find fresh ways to keep the bloom of love alive can often seem like equally hard work. Plus all that wining and dining can be your wallet's worst enemy, not to mention your waistline's. With all this in mind, we'd like to suggest a few fun, healthy—and inexpensive—ways to incorporate fitness into your efforts at romance, whether with someone new you're trying to woo, or someone with whom you'd like to continually keep rekindling the fires of desire.

  1. The Sand-in-the-Toes Date. Yup, everyone's favorite romantic cliché is actually quite good exercise. Since we're used to wearing shoes, we generally don't engage most of the muscles in our feet for everyday use. Walking barefoot on sand will force you to use all the muscles in your feet, making it a surprisingly challenging workout that'll help prevent injuries in other activities. (And if you want to take things up a notch, running on sand burns 30 percent more calories than running on pavement does. Start out on wet sand—it'll help better acclimate your feet to the surface.) So after you've had your lovely candlelit dinner, you can walk off that dessert on the beach. If you get tired, stop, sit under the moon, listen to the waves and, well . . . you get the picture.
  2. The Check–out-Your-Town-on-Foot Date. Now that you've built up those foot muscles, use them to explore your city! Be it New York, where commuting on foot is a given, or Los Angeles, where walking is practically verboten, there are a plethora of walking tours designed to cater to a variety of different interests—gastronomic, historical, and everything in between. Whether you live in a sprawling metropolis or in Smalltown, USA, in this virtual age, it's important to remember that we live in actual physical spaces, each with a story all its own.
  3. The Great Outdoors Date. Next time you feel the urge for a romantic weekend getaway, consider sleeping under the stars instead of under the roof of a five-star resort. Sure, we all love room service, but sometimes it takes the vastness of wide-open spaces to create true intimacy. Guys, go from ordinary Joe to knight in shining armor as you protect your lady from lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). Gals, impress your beau with some dazzling tree-climbing skills, or with your ability to start a fire with a couple of sticks. Resourcefulness is very sexy!
  4. The Nine-Hole Date. Not only is walking (no cart, please!) nine or 18 holes of golf great cardio, it's also a good way to add some competitive spirit to a relationship. Public courses won't overtax your bank account, and you can usually rent clubs for a reasonable price, too. If the prospect of an actual round of golf seems too daunting, a driving range is also a great way to have some fun while being active. If things are a little tense between you and your significant other, it might actually be therapeutic! And if even a driving range seems beyond your skill set, there's always mini-golf. You heard it here first: chasing a ball down before it enters the wrong windmill door and falls in the moat counts as exercise.
  5. The Water Date. It's the end of summer, and chances are it's still pretty warm where you live. Too hot for a lot of clothes. So why not take your P90X®-toned bodies down to the local watering hole and go for a swim? It's a great full-body, low-impact cardio workout that's easy on the joints. Because you use more muscles 'n' limbs to move your body when you swim, you'll also be burning more calories. If you live near a beach, lake, or river, make a whole day of it and lounge on the shore as you discover new ways to get sand in places you didn't think it was possible for sand to even go. If you're feeling extra-festive, bring a portable BBQ and grill up some lean protein (ideally fish, maybe even fish you caught yourself!) and a few fresh veggies. Exercise and heart-healthy food—they just seem to go together, don't they?
If you put your mind to it, there are countless ways to have fun-filled adventures with your loved (or soon-to-be-loved, if you play your cards right) one that are good for your body, easy on your wallet, and conducive to helping you learn about each other in a setting that's slightly more imaginative than a dinner table or a movie theater. And from a wooing perspective, the further outside the box you think, the more it'll seem like you're really trying to make your time together special, which is never a bad thing. So give these suggestions a try, or use them as springboards for something that works better for you and the object of your affections. Remember, fitness can have a place in all aspects of your life—including your love life!