Fun ways to exercise outdoors

by the Southern Cross team
Friday , 13 January 2023 - 2-3 minute read
Three women go running in the sun
Moving well

Now’s a great time to head outdoors and get active in the fresh air. So let’s look at some of your more interesting exercise options out there.

The sun is out, the days are longer, and the great outdoors is calling. So if all that trudging and sweating inside at the gym doesn’t seem quite so attractive at the moment, maybe it’s time to get a good workout in the open air instead.

While going to the gym is a great routine to get into, outdoor exercise can be just as effective – even without all that expensive equipment. As humans, we’re pretty much programmed to be closer to nature too, which means all that fresh air can go a long way towards helping us feel better, think better and even sleep better. And that’s not all.

The outdoor benefits

There are plenty of additional bonuses to taking your workout outdoors. For starters, one study showed that when we exercise in the fresh air, we tend to do it for longer.1 Another suggested that people who exercised outside reported feeling healthier, more energised and more revitalised than those who did it indoors.2

And then there are the more measurable health perks. Spending time in nature is proven to ease stress, lower our blood pressure and reduce our risk of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.2 Some researchers also suggest that inhaling the compounds given off by plants (phytonicides, to be precise) can increase our white blood cell count, thus strengthening our immune system to help us fight off disease.3

And that’s not to mention that outdoor exercise somehow feels more fun too. So if you’d like to mix things up and head outside for your fitness fix, here are some fun favourites to try out in the sunshine:

1) Tramping time

Let’s start with one of the simplest. Hitting the trails is a great option for pretty much everyone, as it helps to build muscle, clear your head and get your heart rate up. In fact an hour’s walking can burn around 350 calories on the flat – more if you include an incline or two4. Plus it’s more of a social activity, so you can chat with any friends and family who care to come along for the ride. Just remember, if you’re a beginner try to start slow, then build up your distance as you become accustomed.

2) Carry on kayaking

Paddling gracefully through the water can be a hugely calming experience, almost enough to make you forget it’s also a very decent workout for both upper and lower body muscles. A great way to tone up, stay in shape and reduce stress, an hour of kayaking or canoeing burns around 400 calories. Don’t forget your lifejacket!

3) Perfect for paddle boarding

While we’re messing around on the water, why not try your hand at paddle boarding? It’s a much more upright way to move yourself across the surface that burns about twice what you’d expend walking. Standing tall and balancing gives your core and all your major body muscles a good going over too, and can help to improve your posture. Plus once you get the hang of it, it’s a lot of fun.

4) Better get biking

If spin classes are your thing, take it outside into the real world for the wind in your face and a whole new set of challenges. A good strenuous bike ride can burn up to 500 calories an hour, and is a great leg strengthener and cardio workout. Or if it’s too hilly where you are, try an e-bike instead – there are plenty available to hire these days.

5) Just keep swimming

Grab your togs and head to your favourite beach or lake for some great fun splashing around outdoors. Swimming not only burns tons of calories – around 400 per hour – it also targets muscle groups through your entire body, so it’s a great all over workout. Gentle on your joints too, swimming al fresco could just become your favourite warm weather exercise routine.

6) HIIT it

If you’re into fitness, you’ll probably already know that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) takes your training and weight loss potential to the next level. Even better, it only takes around 20 minutes of vigorous stop/start exercise to give your metabolism a kickstart, and can be done pretty much anywhere – in your local park, or even your backyard.

7) Take yoga outdoors

Challenge your body and ease your mind with an outdoor twist on all your yoga poses. The perfect low impact workout if you’re not used to over-exerting yourself, yoga is proven to strengthen your muscles, improve your flexibility, and reduce stress and anxiety. And of course if you do it on the grass, you don’t necessarily even need a mat.

These are just a few suggestions – we’re sure you can think of more ways to stay fit, healthy and active outdoors in the sunshine. Just remember not to overdo things if you’re not used to too much exercise, and that you need to keep hydrated and protect yourself with a decent SPF lotion. Then, who knows, you might just find yourself having so much fun it doesn’t even feel like a workout.






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