With Summer of 2019 finally upon us, millions of American families are venturing off the proverbial beaten trail and seeking out vacation destinations that will maximize the longer, languid summer days and warm, inviting temperatures. Why not also shift your traditional, personal fitness regimen from the interior comforts of a local gym or studio to the bountiful outdoors as well? The following five, outdoor exercise options will reward your intrepid spirit with aerobic and anaerobic stimulation, whether at home or while on summer vacation:
- Whether your preference is jogging in the privacy of a nature preserve or alongside the din of onrushing car traffic, jogging is a terrific way to enjoy the outdoors while boosting your body’s heart, lungs, and overall stamina. For those individuals desirous of weight loss, running is the perfect, physical activity complement in burning calories and raising your standing metabolic rate. There is some, initial risk to jogging due to the stress often placed on your body’s knees, ankles, and hips; however, by gradually increasing your time and distance targets, rather than dramatically, your body should be able to compensate for the additional demands and adjust accordingly. To insure your body’s safe adjustment to the stress of running, invest in a reputable pair of running shoes with ample support and proper fitting. Whenever you feel that your body is developing shin splints or tendinitis from an excessive period of running, turn to lower-impact activities like walking or weight-lifting for one to two weeks until your body has fully healed.
- One of the greatest benefits of cycling as a fitness routine as well as leisure activity for me is its ability to allow you to explore and soak in a menagerie of neighborhoods during your route. The ability to crisscross through parks, trails, and residential neighborhoods all in one cycling trip is visually rewarding while also delivering on the fitness goal of cardiovascular exercise. The body’s muscular development in the lower body becomes immediately apparent when picking up cycling, as the quadriceps and hamstrings are constantly stimulated and challenged. As your endurance and stamina improve, you will be able to venture further out and explore the surrounding countryside for inspiration. Similar to jogging, it is imperative that you find a bike that conforms to your body’s length and type; failure to do so can lead to undue stress on your back or knees. The seat that you use should be made of a soft, comfortable material for longer rides. It is also recommended that you wear a helmet at all times and even some padded hand gloves to absorb the shock of the bike when traveling over rough terrain.
- A historically popular, summer recreational pursuit is swimming and it is easy to see why: the cardiovascular and muscle toning benefits are unbeatable. Unlike jogging which can be tough on the joints, swimming is easy on the joints. This added benefit is why swimming is popular with people who are currently combating muscle injuries or joint pain. For middle age and older patients, swimming has been heralded by the scientific community for warding off diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart attack risk. Whether you are on vacation or at home, finding an outdoor, community swimming pool or outdoor body of water (lake, ocean, etc) is readily accessible. The best thing about swimming is that all you need is a swimsuit and the ability to swim, which most of us have learned from childhood.
- Hiking is the outdoor fitness activity of choice in my household. Whether it’s a walk along Torrey Pines Beach in San Diego or a challenging mountain ascent up one of Colorado’s 14ers (14,000 ft mountain peaks), hiking is an inspiring and thrilling outdoor alternative to the indoor gym workout. With the kaleidoscope of natural beauty ringing the trail, it is also easy to forget how beneficial to your cardiovascular health a demanding hike can be. The climbing and balancing of the body during a trail hike can even stimulate secondary and tertiary muscle groups that have remained dormant due to indoor training that only has been emphasizing primary muscle movements and contractions. It is a frequent observation of mine that my post-hiking recovery days often leave me more sore than any yoga or pilates class due to this welcome, shock therapy stimulation. The positive, psychological benefit from a hike is also underestimated: beholding nature’s bounty in a relaxed environment is an idyllic de-stress activity to leave your holistic being in a re-invigorated state. As with the aforementioned jogging and cycling, be sure to wear hiking shoes that are supportive and fit to avoid any blisters. It is also crucial to always begin any hike well-prepared in the way of an ample water supply and snacks to provide energy and nourishment for the body throughout any hike.
- With the advent of FitBit and other portable fitness assistants, walking as a viable, outdoor exercise option has never been more embraced. While you don’t necessarily have to reach the 10,000 steps per day goal popularized on social media, walking for at least 20-30 minutes everyday is highly recommended to lower the risk of a myriad, chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. Unlike other high-impact sports, walking is far easier on your body’s joints and only requires a sturdy, supportive pair of shoes. Recent medical research has even indicated that you no longer must concentrate a walking regimen over a constant 20-30 minute period of time either. Rather, you can engage in multiple, daily activities or chores that incorporate walking and add up to 20-30 minutes per day. These walking activities can include walking the dog, escorting the kids by foot to school, or taking the stairs rather than the elevator at the hotel, shopping mall, or workplace. If you are focused on weight loss, perhaps add another 15-30 minutes per day to your walking routine. With the increased stamina and endurance derived from walking, this targeted goal should not be difficult to attain.
Outdoor exercise is a wonderful, inexpensive alternative to the traditional indoor fitness pursuits. Being able to enjoy the warmer temperatures and bask in the natural beauty of Mother Earth provides both physical AND spiritual rejuvenation. Whether your outdoor exercise venue of choice is jogging, cycling, swimming, hiking, or walking, working out outdoors will offer aerobic and anaerobic benefits that will deliver on your personal fitness goals.