Do you generally gravitate to the controlled environment of the gym to do your exercise?
While the relative appeal of the gym – convenient, controlled and predictable – is obvious to many, emerging research suggests there may be psychological benefits to exercising outdoors that can’t be replicated on a treadmill, a spin bicycle or during an indoor class.
In recent times, I’ve been more actively encouraging people to try venturing outdoors for their health and fitness boost, even during the colder seasons – and they are not only discovering the physical benefits, but also the genuine buzz that year round outdoor exercise can bring.
Here are some of my favourite activities to take you outside.
In my mind, there are few people who wouldn’t prefer the fresh crispness of a fine autumn morning to the same boring walls that you experience when you go to a group exercise class at the gym. Outdoor training in a group setting can provide that extra level of motivation and enjoyment that is often needed to get results. That’s why boot camp training has become popular in various parklands around the country. These classes use the environment as a training aid, and they offer the big advantage of open spaces to do runs and exercises. If you’re looking to reinvigorate your exercise routine as we head towards the colder months, why not try a boot camp program close to you?
The colours, the crunch of leaves – is there any better season to run than autumn? I realise running is not everyone’s favourite outdoor activity because of the high impact forces that your joints need to absorb. That being said, many runners will tell you that there is something therapeutic about running outside that can leave you feeling on a great high. Mixed terrain exercises your body in different ways and changing scenery can make running outdoors one of the most pleasurable outdoor fitness activities there is. For the non-runners who are not confident at the thought of running outdoors, consider starting with the Couch to 5k program, which can slowly condition your body and fitness to enjoy running. Before you know it, you may be running 5km continuously and appreciating the new levels of fitness you can achieve through running.
I have friends who are avid cyclists who swear there's no better way to enjoy the cooling breezes of autumn, and the beautiful scenic views that often come along with the season, than out on a trail ride. Cycling is a multi-faceted outdoor activity, which can be exciting, challenging, and allows you to explore the environment in the process. It’s a healthy, low-impact exercise that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, from young children to older adults. Cycling can definitely be a really fun way to get fit – and if something’s fun, you’re more likely to continue to do it regularly. Cycling is also easy to fit into your daily routine by riding to the shops, park, school or work.
Now I know March signals the end of summer; however this doesn’t have to mean the end of the swim season. For me, swimming is the most invigorating outdoor activity you can do that leaves you feeling revitalised and recharged every time you come out of the water. I particularly enjoy swimming in my local 50-metre outdoor heated pool, which operates year-round. I strongly believe that many people who sit behind a desk and deal with a lot of back pain would benefit tremendously from swimming.
For many people who have never had the opportunity to learn how to swim, let me remind you that it’s never too late to get lessons. We generally gravitate towards activities we excel in, and many people are deterred from swimming because of their inability to swim laps. Enquire at your local pool about receiving lessons, and with some good coaching you could be swimming 1km in the pool without stopping.
Find new ways to be active this Autumn
My advice – get out of the office, house and gym as often as possible. Being in the sunlight throughout the year helps supply the body with vitamin D, a ‘superstar’ nutrient that helps to promote the absorption of calcium and provides strength to bones. Consider weight training at the gym and doing cardio by walking/running, biking, or swimming outdoors. The benefits of outdoor exercise go beyond fitness, so try incorporating more outdoor activity in to your lifestyle this autumn, and you too may just feel healthier and happier for it!