Spending time outside may be more important for your health than you realize. Studies suggest that spending as little as 15 minutes in the sun each day helps the body produce Vitamin D. Known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus to build strong bones and keeps the immune system balanced and better able to control infections. So why not take advantage of the warm weather and longer days of summer and get some Vitamin D the natural way - by bringing your workouts outdoors.
Take a look around you. Nature offers countless ways to get a great workout whether you live near the beach, a lake, close to mountains or even in a city. Here are some suggestions for starting some new summer workout routines:
Water activities are great for a full body workout. Swimming keeps the heart rate up, builds endurance, and tones and strengthens leg and arm muscles. Swimming laps or water aerobics are particularly good for people who need low impact exercise due to lower back or joint issues. While more strenuous, surfing and paddle boarding are excellent for upper body strengthening and for developing coordination, improving balance and strengthening your core. If going into the water does not appeal to you, simply walking barefooted on the soft sand on the beach can provide more resistance than a treadmill or walking on asphalt. Just being near water can have a calming effect and chance to clear your head.
Ideas to Consider: open water and lap swim, aqua aerobics, surfing, paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking.
Mountain trails are excellent for powerful cardiovascular and respiratory system workouts. Hiking or mountain biking can improve your blood pressure, boost your bone density and build strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and the muscles in your lower legs. Using rubber tipped walking poles when hiking can engage major arm muscles as well. If hiking or biking is too vigorous, consider taking a walk or picnic in a mountain park. Most parks have extensive walking paths/trails for walkers, joggers and bikers. Check park websites for information regarding the lengths of trails and how strenuous a workout you can expect. Whatever the workout, the cooler mountain air can be soothing as you take in the sweeping views, scents and sounds around you.
Ideas to Consider: hiking, jogging, mountain biking, trail running
Consider your local public parks as new places to get your exercise game going, and know you’re doing something great for both body and mind. Walking and running on soft grass, or on an out-door track, is actually better for your joints and can lessen the chance of injury. And many neighborhood parks offer classes like yoga and tai chi during summer. These practices are good for core and muscle strengthening, balance and flexibility.
With a little creativity just about any indoor exercise routine can be performed outdoors with similar results. For most exercises all you need is your own body; resistance bands, jump ropes or exercise balls are great add-ons if you have them.
So whether you’re a workout warrior or are simply happy to enjoy a slower paced practice, take advantage of the many opportunities to exercise outside. You’ll find, almost without realizing it, that your world has expanded in a way that makes you feel accomplished. Outdoor activity is nourishing – physically and emotionally. As long as you stay smart, safe and always aware of your surroundings, you can take steps (no pun intended) towards enjoying a healthier and happier summer.
Ideas to Consider: walking, running, biking, body weight strength training, yoga, meditation.