No Gym Required: Enjoy the Benefits of Training Outdoors

No Gym RequiredRemember when you were growing up and you used to go outside to “play,” but now as an adult, you end up inside a gym to “workout?”

Gyms have brought us countless health benefits, but it seems our culture has developed a disconnect between gym exercise and physical activity. We drive to the gym to walk on a treadmill, and many of us are guilty of driving around the parking lot to find the closest parking spot. These examples may seem silly, but are commonplace in our society as we seem to have lost touch with the fact that being physically active is exercise!

If you are looking to shake up or start an exercise routine, step outside into a world that was designed for activity. There are countless options to choose from (after, of course, you’ve consulted your doctor to make sure you’re healthy for exercise).

Swimming is a near perfect total-body exercise. Not only is it a full-body low impact workout, it brings high results by strengthening your muscles without picking up a weight. It’s easy on your joints, expands lung capacity and causes fewer injuries than some forms of exercise.

Besides a bathing suit, you don’t need any fancy workout equipment. Swimming is a fun way to get your body moving and your heart rate up. 

Bike riding is great cardio training. This activity can be done alone, with your family or a group of friends. Make your next ride a little more fun and plan a route to a specific destination. Instead of setting out to simply bike five miles, pick a coffee house five miles away and get a group together to bike there once a week.

You can also take advantage of the summer weather and bike to and from work. Not only will it help you feel better; you’ll be saving the environment as well. Remember, safety first: wear a helmet.

Stairs can be great exercise. Before you begin, walk up and down the flight to make sure they’re sturdy. Then, get creative and move up the stairs straight, in a zig-zag pattern or add footwork drills by hopping, bounding or shuffling. Stairs are also great for tricep dips, step-ups or incline push-ups.

Hill Climbing
Although a little hard to come by in these parts, hills provide just enough incline for a great workout. Try pumping your arms on the way to the top, and remember to stay light on your feet. Perform a circuit of push-ups, squats, crunches, jumping jacks and lunges before heading back up for another round.

Remember the simplest exercise of all – walking. It’s a great no-fuss way to get in some cardio. All you need are comfortable walking shoes. Investing in a pedometer or fitness tracker can serve as good motivation to track exactly how many steps you take each day. Aim for 10,000 steps per day and try to keep your pace up, walking as fast and as comfortably as you possibly can.

Grab a pair of Nordic walking poles and increase your calorie burn up to 30 percent while sculpting your upper body. You can also try a weighted vest to safely ramp up your intensity and blast more calories without straining your joints. Here are some ways to increase intensity:

  • Run 20 seconds, walk 20 seconds. Repeat five times.
  • Walk five minutes with two 10-second sprints spaced in the middle.
  • Repeat a pattern of walk 40 seconds, jog/sprint 10 seconds, walk 10 seconds.

There is always an opportunity for exercise. Sometimes it’s easier than you think to fit a walk into your day. Just leave your car at home, lace up those sneakers, get outside and get moving! There really is no better feeling.

Emily SpicerEmily Spicer is a health and wellness specialist at Altru Health System. With a positive approach to overall wellness, she inspires people to take control of their lives through a focused commitment toward better health and to make that choice a habitual and natural one. In her free time, Emily enjoys a good workout, playing tennis and spending time with her family and friends.

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