As temperatures finally warm up and we leave winter behind, it’s a great time to take a break from your gym routine and bring your workout outdoors! Start with a walk or jog around your local trails or along your own neighborhood sidewalks, and then head for the playground for some strength training. Use monkey bars for pull-ups, or, if you’re not quite ready to do those, try some “negatives,” hanging from the bar to build up grip and shoulder strength. Add some knee lifts to activate your abs. Park benches work well for incline pushups and triceps dips. A flat surface provides space for squats and lunges. Sure, people might give you the side-eye, but maybe you’ll inspire a few to work out with you.
Exercising outdoors will challenge your body in a beneficial way because you’ll train in an always–changing environment. Walking, running, or biking on uneven terrain teaches your muscles to adapt to various surfaces, inclines, and declines, and, besides burning more calories, it also enhances the strength of your connective tissue, which may help avoid certain injuries. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking and jogging are also great for increasing bone density in the hips, an especially important consideration as you age. Walking outdoors has also been proven to help relieve stress and depression. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Once the sun starts to shine, team sports are a fantastic option as well. Invite a few friends out for some basketball or a game of frisbee. Local parks are usually great places for a range of team activities. If you’re not sure where the closest park is, visit www.findyourpark.com and enter your address. There, you can search by activities as well, and find the perfect place to enjoy hiking, canoeing, swimming, or any number of other fun activities close to your home.
A Google search may turn up walking groups near you too. In addition to getting fit, you can make new friends. The American Heart Association (www.heart.org) provides a handy guide to start or join a walking group. If you’re more of an introvert and have a fitness tracker, you can still compete with others through weekly step challenges. Being accountable to a group is a great motivator.
In addition to all these benefits, working out in the sunshine and fresh air feels fantastic! Smelling the flowers, hearing the birds, and feeling the sun while moving your body is a wonderful experience. In one study*, researchers found that exercising outdoors “was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy, and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity.”
Enjoy nature and feel good! Make new friends as well as new resolutions for better health. Happy spring!
* Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review. Thompson Coon J1, Boddy K, Stein K, Whear R, Barton J, Depledge MH. Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Mar 1;45(5):1761-72. doi: 10.1021/es102947t. Epub 2011 Feb 3.