Do you recall your parents saying, “Go outside and play with your friends for a while!” or “Go get some fresh air!” These words are often mistaken for a punishment or convenient way for parents to get kids out of their way. But today, we may see the wisdom of what Mom and Dad were encouraging.
When we spend time outdoors, we can reconnect with the joy and relaxation of physical activity. It also helps us reconnect to the intrinsic motivation for physical activity that we experienced as a child. We were moving, because we could and wanted to, not because we “had” to.
Many trainers are “taking it to the streets” with the fitness regimens they promote. The change in venue adds a new dimension to the workouts, prevents plateaus and decreases the boredom factor. Stepping outside the confines of the local gym and into our natural habitat provides exciting new options in our quest for a healthy lifestyle.
Healthy Lifestyle: Natural Gyms
Consider the natural gyms out there ready to be used. A nearby lake offers the chance for a swim or a walk on the shore. Swimming is both cardio and strength training and is much more comfortable on the joints. Take a foam “noodle” and make an “aqua-chair” to float and kick while enjoying the cool lake water.
Dust off your old bike, polish the handle bars and pump up the tires for a breezy ride around the neighborhood, along the beach or on a designated bike path. There are many off-road bike paths available today. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce or recreation department to find their locations.
Remember, too, local tennis, racquetball and basketball courts! Invite co-workers to join you for a quick “pick-up” game of basketball or a tennis match after work. Conveniently forget to keep score; this will keep it fun and help to de-stress after a hard day at the office.
In winter, snowshoeing can take you places skis can’t get. And the beauty of snow-covered forest trails can’t be beat. Cross-country skis can get you back country, too, and downhill skis provide a definite rush. The choice is yours!
Increasing Motivation & Workouts
If you’re an avid reader, try taking a book on tape/DVD with you. Load your I-pod or mp3 player with your favorite book before getting into a kayak or a canoe. Listening to the story may keep you going longer than usual.
If you prefer not to exercise alone, look for groups /clubs that schedule walks, hikes and bike excursions in your area. These are referred to as “togethering” activities in the adventure travel industry. They’re a great way to meet new friends and make that connection to nature on a regular basis.
Nordic walking has experienced an increase within the last several years. Grab a friend, and sign up to learn how to boost the average walk to a higher level. Nordic walking is an excellent way to increase the intensity of your walk, without having to run or jog!
Tai Chi and meditative labyrinth walks are another way to make the outdoor connection. Movement, relaxation and fresh air are a wonderful way to change the complexion of our routine and fulfill the important component of mindfulness in everything that we do.
Ultimately, the challenge is not how much we are doing, but how much fun we are having while doing it. Turn off the treadmill, and step into the sunlight for a healthy, relaxing good time!
LynnAnn Covell, Senior Exercise Specialist, Green Mountain at Fox Run