The great outdoors beckons us with warm weather and longer days during the summer, which makes it the perfect time to go outside and have fun. Whether it’s a game of volleyball or a bike ride through the neighborhood, the outdoors can be a breath of fresh air for your exercise routine.
Exercising outdoors is challenging and saves time, and studies are finding that it can actually make you feel better. It adds variety, creativity and freedom to your workouts without having to punch buttons on a machine. Sometimes the only problem seems to be finding the motivation to get off the couch…
The American Diabetes Association recommends exercising at least 30 minutes per day, five days a week to help prevent and manage diabetes. Seems easy enough, right? Hopefully these benefits will encourage you to get outside and take advantage of the season.
Distraction: Being active outside can be distracting—in a good way! Oftentimes you can forget you’re exercising if you’re enjoying nature’s scenery. Skipping the treadmill could make that five-mile run you dread feel like two.
Feel better: Being outside can help put you in better spirits, especially if you had a gloomy winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more common than you think but usually goes away with the arrival of warmer months. Studies have shown that participants who exercise outdoors feel revitalized, have increased energy levels and feel more satisfied. At the same time levels of tension, depression and anger also decrease.
Improved breathing: Breathing fresh air is good for you. It helps provide a healthy mind, clean lungs, a steady supply of oxygen that our brains and cells need and a sense of calm.
Though there are plenty of benefits to exercising outside, the summer heat could turn your workout into a burnout if you’re not careful. You may not be racing in the desert, but there are some things to keep in mind when exercising in the heat.
Timing: The time of day is important, so try to avoid activity from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the hottest part of the day.
Drink up: Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your activity, even if you’re not thirsty.
Monitor your blood glucose: As with any physical activity, you’ll want to learn your blood glucose response to outdoor exercise if you have diabetes. Checking before and after exercise can show you the benefits of activity. You also can use the results of your blood glucose checks to prevent low blood glucose or high blood glucose. Learn more.
Get proper shoes: It’s all about comfortable, properly sized shoes. If you are unsure of what type of shoe you should use, talk to your health care team.
Use sunscreen: Apply SPF 30 (at least) sunscreen at least 30 minutes before exercising outdoors – and reapply often, even if it’s not sunny. You can still burn and suffer from sun damage on cloudy days. Protect your eyes with sunglasses that block the sun’s UV rays.
Check the weather: Before your workout, check the forecast. If there’s a heat advisory, you might want to take your workout indoors. This means high ozone and air pollution, which can damage your lungs.
The great thing about outdoor exercise is there are so many activities to choose from. You know the benefits, but how do you get started? Remember, it is only 30 minutes a few days a week. You don’t even have to do all 30 minutes at the same time! Here are some ideas:
• Walking – The cheapest and simplest way to exercise is putting one foot in front of the other. All you need is a pair of sturdy, well-fitted shoes.
• Gardening – Pull some weeds or plant some flowers.
• Hiking – You don’t need to climb Mount Everest to enjoy the benefit of walking in the woods. Don’t forget to bring a snack and wear layers.
• Frisbee – Who knew throwing around a disk could be so much fun (and so cheap!)?
• Swimming – You don’t need to do the 100-meter butterfly to enjoy the benefits of swimming. Swimming or treading water is a great way to work the cardiovascular system.
• Boating – Canoeing or kayaking in your community or on your next vacation is a great way to see the sights from another angle. Taking the family to the lake this summer? Great! If you’re boating, go out to an area, stop the boat and anchor, and do some swimming.
• Playing – Take your kids or grandkids to the park. Climb on the ladders or swing across the monkey bars with them. Play tag or hide-and-seek.
• Bicycling – Bicycling is a fitness activity you can do by yourself or with a group of friends, whether it’s a ride through the park or through the mountains. If you’re already an avid cyclist, check out these training tips from Tour de Cure spokesperson Chris Carmichael!
• Beach Volleyball – Playing a game of beach volleyball will work on a variety of different muscles. Not only will your arms and legs get a good workout during the activity, but you can improve your stamina as well.
This is definitely the season to lace up your shoes and find a reason to get in the sun. So skip the gym, soak up some vitamin D, get in shape and feel great all at the same time!
Tell us in the comments: What is your favorite form of outdoor exercise?