Workouts can be fun, there’s no doubt about that, but they can also grow stale—especially if you’re one who normally follows a set routine. There’s never been a better time to switch things up.
Because this lovely late-May weather not only offers you the opportunity to bust out of the gym, but it also gives you the chance to dive back into some of the outdoor activities that you might’ve left behind. Biking, rollerblading, and swimming (just to name a few) are fun and challenging—and they can give you one hell of a workout, too!
Why Getting Outside is Good for Your Health
This shouldn’t be a surprise, but taking your workouts outdoors definitely has its benefits. I’m a firm believer that nature is good for the soul. Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at Rochester University states that “Nature is fuel for the soul. Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature” (Source).
Professor Ryan is also an author of a number of studies that have shown that being outside in nature makes people feel more alive. “Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don’t just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses. One of the pathways to health may be to spend more time in natural settings,” he says (Source).
Let that sink in for a minute or two.
One of the pathways to health may be to spend more time in natural settings.
So next time you’re feeling a bit down and in the dumps, turn off the coffee pot and tell the gym you’ll see it later. Spend your workout time outside, and while you’re at it, why not give one of the following activities a try instead of your regular routine?
6 Outdoor Activities to Build a Healthier You
Now, none of these activities should be a surprise. They’re all common and maybe you’re already doing a few of them as part of your daily workout routine. Rethink that this week. Rather than using one of these as part of your routine, change things up and make one your whole routine instead.
Dump that stationary bike that’s been in your basement for five years and hop on your mountain bike instead. Cycling exercises your cardiovascular system (duh!), but it does some great things for your mental state, too.
It helps sharpen your brain and is pretty good at melting stress away, but perhaps the best benefit is backed by a study that, according to Bicycling.com, appeared in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. It states that “people scored higher on tests of memory, reasoning, and planning after 30 minutes of spinning on a stationary bike than they did before they rode. They also completed the tests faster after pedaling” (Source).
According to Bicycling.com, “the sweet spot for sharpening mental acuity right after exercise is about 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic riding at roughly 75 percent of your maximum heart rate” (Source). Know what’s really cool, though? taking regular bike rides “helps keep your hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in check,” (Source) which is where the stress relief comes in. Who doesn’t want to be able to handle stress and anxiety-filled days in a better way?
I know you’re probably thinking “Wait. Rollerblading is still a thing?” and that’s a perfectly normal thought. After all, it seems that peak popularity was sometime around the mid-90s, but I assure you, rollerblading is still very much a thing.
While it may feel outdated, rollerblading provides a range of health benefits. The most obvious is that it gives your cardiovascular system a healthy boost. According to Health Fitness Revolution, “Rollerblading for 30 minutes at a steady pace raises the average heart rate to 148 beats per minute and provides a workout similar to running” (Source).
Other great benefits include an increase in endurance and improved coordination. Rollerblading is even conducive to weight loss, strengthens your lower body, and is a great way to clear your mind. Health Fitness Revolution states that “the swift and repetitive action of skating helps you stay present and gives your brain reprieve from constant noise” (Source). While rollerblading may not be true mindfulness, it’s pretty close, wouldn’t you say?
It’s no secret that walking is good for you and that is provides a number of benefits to keep your healthy and happy. Perhaps the best thing about walking, according to Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple, is that “it’s all inclusive … and is the foundation for good health and makes life better” (Source).
He’s right. Nearly everyone can walk, and unless you have a really good reason why you can’t, then you should definitely be doing it. Regular walking helps reduce body fat in a modest way, but also helps improve your overall glycemic control, especially after you’ve eaten.
As with any form of exercise, it’s great for your brain. From boosting cognition and memory in older people to boosting creativity in younger people, walking promotes better brain health.
Swimming has provided a range of health benefits for, well, forever. Depending on the stroke you choose, you can burn a larger amount of calories, but when it comes down to it, there are set benefits that any type of swimming will offer.
According to Health Status, “The University of South Carolina surveyed and studied 40,000 men for more than 32 years and found that those who swam regularly had a 50 percent lower death rate than those who didn’t swim” (Source). Swimming offers a stronger form of exercise and promotes a longer life span and better heart health.
Swimming on a regular basis is a great way to control your weight (it’s a high calorie-burner, after all) and keep your muscles toned. Stress relief is a big benefit, too, as swimming help release feel-good chemicals. According to Health Status, “Swimming brings on the relaxation response that is also found in yoga class” (Source).
I consider running to be a “drug” of mine, and while it may not be everyone’s favorite aerobic exercise, it’s definitely worth trying. You already know that exercise makes you feel better. Running does the same, and provides some really great specific health benefits, too!
Whether you’re on a full-out run or have chosen to jog at a slower pace, you’re improving your joint health. David Felson, a researcher at Boston University states that “When we look at runners and follow them over time, we don’t find that their risk of developing osteoarthritis is any more than expected” (Source). So, when someone tells you that running is “bad for your knees,” you can tell them that studies have shown it’s actually good for your knees.
Running is also beneficial to brain health and cognition. According to Runner’s World, a 2012 study published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review states that “the evidence is insurmountable that regular exercise helps defeat age-related mental decline, particularly functions like task switching, selective attention, and working memory” (Source).
What are you doing for exercise outdoors? We’d love to hear your stories. Please leave us a comment below!
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