Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Exercise like the Irish

By Tom DiChiara,
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1520 GMT (2320 HKT)
Dancing has always been an integral part of Irish life, from traditional Irish folk dances to vigorous jigs.
Dancing has always been an integral part of Irish life, from traditional Irish folk dances to vigorous jigs.
  • Nearly half of Irish adults participate in some form of regular exercise
  • "Irish Lumberjack" exercise builds arm, core strength
  • Mix aerobic and anaerobic conditioning to train like a hurler

Editor's note: upwave is Turner Broadcasting's new lifestyle brand designed to entertain the health into you! Visit for more information and follow upwave on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram @upwave.

( -- Every year, we like to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by indulging in some quintessentially Irish things, such as stout beer, strong whiskey and/or corned beef and cabbage.

Cabbage aside, those aren't exactly the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle -- but the good people of Ireland do know a few things about staying fit.

According to data collected by the Irish Sports Monitor in 2013, 47% of Irish men and women aged 16 and over participate in some form of regular exercise. While some choose common activities (gym-based workouts, swimming, running, cycling), others enjoy singularly Irish ones like dancing (think: Riverdance) and the sport of hurling.

Want to celebrate St. Paddy's Day (or any day) in a healthy way? Here are a few Irish-themed workouts that'll help you earn a Guinness or two.

upwave: 7 awesome things beer does for your body

Spreading Irish joy through dance

Good: Exercise like a lumberjack

During the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, many citizens of the Emerald Isle immigrated to the United States and Canada and found employment as lumberjacks and loggers in the booming timber industry.

Today, there is an exercise known as the "Irish Lumberjack," which builds the arm and core strength needed to chop down trees. Sure, you probably won't have to hew gargantuan trees anytime soon, but great arms, abs and balance always come in handy.

Here's how the exercise works: Execute a few sets of one-armed dumbbell rows while balancing on one leg with the knee slightly bent. Be aware of your posture and try to keep your back from rounding. Your non-weight-bearing leg should be fully extended behind you with your torso parallel to the floor, so your body makes a "T" shape.

Repeat until you feel like an Irish lumberjack.

upwave: Quick 5-minute upper body workout

Better: Give hurling a whirl

Believed to be the world's oldest field game, the Gaelic sport of hurling is a mixture of soccer, hockey and lacrosse, with two teams of 15 players squaring off to put a small ball into the opposing team's net.

Since you need 30 people for a full game, it can be hard to get one going on a whim (unless you join a club team). Luckily, though (and the Irish are full of luck), reaping the physical benefits of the sport can be accomplished without heading to the field.

Personal trainer Paul O'Brien recommends mixing aerobic and anaerobic conditioning to train like a hurler athlete. Some days, run two to three miles at a steady pace to build up endurance. Other days, do a series of 50-meter sprints to hone in on your explosiveness.

That way, if you do ever make it onto the hurling field for a game, you'll have the speed and the strength to play hard until the final whistle blows.

upwave: Increase your stamina in 5 days

Best: Leap like you're Lord of the Dance

Dancing has always been an integral part of Irish life, comprising everything from traditional Irish folk dances to the vigorous step dances and jigs popularized in modern times by "Lord of the Dance" creator Michael Flatley.

It's also excellent exercise -- especially step dancing, which requires the dancer to execute intricate and rapid movements with the feet (making it a powerful workout for both the legs and the lungs).

Another perk of Irish dancing is core development, since the body and arms are mostly kept still as the dancer performs the elaborate footwork.

upwave: Quick 6-minute core workout

The benefits of getting footloose also extend beyond the physical. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that dancing keeps your brain nimble and can help to ward off dementia as you age. And because you're listening to music while you dance, it feels like less work than comparable exercises.

"Music reduces your perception of exertion by about 10%," says Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist at London's Brunel University. To get started, see this basic Irish dance routine created by the lovely people from Riverdance.

upwave: Try it now! Take the Irish workout challenge

This article was originally published on

© 2013 upwave, All Rights Reserved.

Part of complete coverage on
St. Patrick's Day
March 17, 2014 -- Updated 1506 GMT (2306 HKT)
When you suit up in green and head to the St. Patrick's Day parade or your favorite Irish bar to celebrate, dropping these facts and figures about the holiday's origins will impress your fellow revelers!
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Kevin Kane's love affair with Ireland began in 2000, when he and his then-fiancee piggybacked on a trip with his brothers and their wives.
March 15, 2013 -- Updated 1530 GMT (2330 HKT)
If there's a top reason pubs are popular in Ireland, it's got to be the weather. Gray skies and chilly Atlantic mists have a way of driving you indoors to drink.
March 17, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
Whether it be for the hopeful coming of spring -- or a certain holiday often associated with a celebratory tipple or two -- we present to you some of the most memorable drinking movies through the years.
March 14, 2013 -- Updated 1920 GMT (0320 HKT)
Sometimes called the Rachael Ray of Ireland, chef Clodagh McKenna says her favorite memories of St. Patrick's Day come from her childhood home in Cork.
March 17, 2014 -- Updated 1226 GMT (2026 HKT)
My interest in the traditional Irish-American meal served in celebration of St. Patrick's Day began when I was a schoolgirl living on Elm Place in Nutley, New Jersey.
Cathal Armstrong leg of lamb
Just a hint: It's not corned beef and cabbage.
From the best beers to green eats to lucky dishes, celebrate the best culinary delights of St. Patrick's Day with Eatocracy.
Not to insult Scotch or Bourbon, but Irish has a mellow sweetness that's awfully hard to resist—or it certainly seems that it's hard to resist, given we're drinking about two-thirds more of it than we were a mere five years ago.
March 15, 2013 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
Click through our gallery to learn all the fun facts behind our St. Patrick's Day celebrations.
green drink
Consider the Shamrock Shake. It's green, it's creamy, you can get it during the month of March, and since McDonald's introduced the thing in 1970, they've sold more than 60 million of them. Here are some other green choices.
lucky tonkatsu
From traditional dishes like noodles that symbolize longevity to a simple ham sandwich, superstitious chefs share their picks for good fortune.
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1520 GMT (2320 HKT)
Every year, we like to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by indulging in some quintessentially Irish things, such as stout beer, strong whiskey and/or corned beef and cabbage.