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“Outdoor workouts result in greater revitalization, increased energy, and more positive engagement, along with less depression, anger, confusion, and tension.”
-Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple
Now that we are entering the Spring/Summer season, you may be itching to get outside. Here are some great outdoor exercise activities to keep you outside this season, while getting a workout.
Hiking can be a surprisingly difficult way to exercise outside if you are up for a challenge. It all depends on the route you choose, the gear you carry, and the pace you set. But the real benefit of hiking comes from being in nature. It gives you a chance to soak up some vitamin D, breathe fresh air, and experience the peace nature provides. And walking on uneven terrain is something you can’t simulate in a gym setting. If you need an even greater challenge, pick up something heavy, like a rock or a log, and do some squats and overhead presses.
When you are hiking, it is important to follow a couple of safety guidelines.
Always hike with another person.
Bring water and food, but especially water, if you are going on a day hike where you will be gone a couple of hours or more.
Map out the trail you plan to hike so you don’t get lost, and follow the trails that are specifically created for hiking.
Swimming can be an outdoor exercise activity all by itself, or it can be a great post-workout way to stretch and soothe the muscles. Swimming is low stress and easy on the joints. It is great if you are dealing with inflammation in your joints. You can benefit from the cold-water exposure, as cool water will force your body to burn more calories to regulate your body temperature. You also benefit from skin exposure, and all the vitamin D you will soak up. Just remember, it is never healthy to have a sunburn. You will want to cover up before you get to that point.
There is a huge emphasis on the fitness industry to exercise on a consistent basis. And that is important. But it should not come at the cost of going on long walks. Walking is no longer a necessary part of our day. We have endless forms of transportation. We have cars, bikes, trains, planes. And when we are not up to driving, we can have our next meal delivered directly to our doorstep. Walking has been taken out of our daily lives, and that’s a huge problem.
In one research, a group of older, sedentary adults, walked for 40 minutes a day, 3 days a week. After a year, they found that they had increased the size of the hippocampus by 2%. That is a significant improvement! It has also been shown to improve working memory in older adults. Walking is not only good for your posture, muscles, joints, and bones, but it is also good for your brain! If that doesn’t encourage you to go on walks, I’m not sure what will.
“We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”
– George Bernard Shaw
I’ll be honest. Play is not something I personally put a lot of emphasis on. And that’s a shame. Play unlocks creativity. Play can improve physical strength, balance, endurance, skill, and focus. And play releases stress. Play can be a spontaneous race with your kids. A pickup basketball game with your pals. Or a round of tag with your grandkids.
Play is so innate that animals do it. Think about how antsy your dog may get if he is cooped up too long. But as soon as you get outside for a game of fetch, he spends the rest of the night completely content. Animals get it, why not us?
Plus, if we are willing to play, it sets a great example for our kids. Play can be seen as superfluous by most adults, and that can hinder creativity in our children as they become adults. So set a good example and be the first to initiate a game of soccer with your kids.
Gardening is a great way to exercise outside and an opportunity to practice your squatting. A lot of adults have very limited mobility in their ankles and feet due to the lack of squatting, wearing shoes, sitting in a chair all day, and so on. As you pull weeds to landscape, or to prep your garden, try short bouts of squatting.
Try to avoid wearing gloves, and put your hands directly in the soil. There are all kinds of beneficial microbes in the soil that will help your immune system. And encourage your children to join in on the fun!
Gardening has a way of bringing peace to your life. There is something about being in the sun, pulling weeds, working the dirt, and growing your own food. What an accomplishment a garden brings to your life.
I hope these ways to exercise outside give you the inspiration to spend your Spring and Summer outdoors this year. Have fun!