As we are all returning to the office in some capacity, burnout can become a serious issue. Research has shown that exercise may be an effective treatment for burnout, but even exercise can become daunting. So how about making exercise fun?

At the age of 44, I started to get bored with my traditional gym workouts and was looking for a fun challenge and a change of scenery. Exercise has always been my “go-to” in order to deal with stress. As a partner at a public accounting firm, I know firsthand about work stress and burnout. At some point In 2015, I noticed my regular workout routine wasn’t doing the trick any longer.

That is when I came across 51-year-old pop icon Madonna incorporating pole into her performance during her Rebel Heart Tour. After more research and a couple trips to Vegas, I was hooked on the idea of twirling around in the air and the strength and flexibility I saw during these performances. I began utilizing my lunch break to take biweekly lessons at a small studio near downtown. Soon enough, I realized that not only was learning aerial fitness fun, but it was about more than just fitness, it's also about body positivity, empowerment and so much more.

Aerial arts encompasses many different apparatus types, though I think everyone eventually gravitates toward one. My apparatus of choice is the pole, on which I now focus most of my training time. Pole fitness is an inclusive sport open to people of all shapes, sizes, ages and genders that is recognized by the Global Association of International Sports Federations. Over the years, the sport has been rising in popularity as people come to realize the benefits of this fun, unique style of workout. Like many other exercises, aerial arts can help you:

  • increase flexibility
  • build core strength
  • increase upper body strength
  • increase metabolism

But the difference between this and other types of workouts is how the skills developed when practicing can translate into real life, like a renewed outlook on your body and an increase in self-esteem. Whether you are practicing pole fitness or working on straps, the trapeze, silks or lyra, aerial fitness provides a full mind and body experience. After a few months of regular training, those who practice aerial arts not only walk taller and see improvements in their posture, but they are also able to channel another dimension to their identities and see themselves in another light.

When you’re trying to alleviate stress on a treadmill, you can still think about work problems. This is not the case with aerial arts because when you are learning the different poses and tricks, it requires a high level of focus. Trust me, there’s no opportunity for the mind to wander off to think about work stress when you’re focusing on what to do with the right arm and the left leg, holding your core tight and pointing your toes, while you are spinning in the air. Your mind is in the moment and it is both challenging and rewarding.

Even with the challenge, aerial arts has such a welcoming and supportive community, which can be the opposite of many gym environments. Starting pole fitness at 44 wasn’t easy, despite how easy Madonna may have made it look. That is why having a supportive gym environment is vital. Our students feel that our gym, Gemini Fitness, is a safe space to be vulnerable, and that it's acceptable to try new things and not experience immediate success. In this community it’s okay to not be perfect, and it’s even more okay to fail.

However, when you master something in the gym that you’ve been working on for weeks, it gives you an extreme sense of accomplishment that builds confidence. This confidence most definitely carries out into day-to-day life. Much like my students, when I first started aerial fitness, I started to see challenges at work and in life that seemed insurmountable before becoming more and more manageable.

Fitness should be about much more than physical fitness and health. It’s about mental health, confidence, relationships, personal growth and self-discovery. When it comes to finding unique ways to alleviate burnout from work, aerial fitness is a real game-changer. Not only will you feel great about yourself, but by stepping out of your comfort zone and expanding the way you challenge your mind and body, you will also see a boost in your confidence that you can take back to the office.


A certified public accountant, Pattie Weed is the owner of Gemini Fitness, where she teaches various types of alternative fitness and aerial arts in downtown Little Rock.