According to the World Health Organization we should have at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, or at least 75 minutes vigorous-intensity exercise per week.1 There’s no single type of exercise for getting fit and staying in shape, so the most important thing is that you like the activity you choose to do. Outdoor activities help us to break up the monotony of gym workouts, and enjoy the summer weather! Why do the same old workouts in the gym when you could exercise it in the sun?
The simplest ways to get fit outdoors is to take a walk with your loved ones or even alone. When it’s sunny outside you can walk to the work, to the shops or even to the gym. According to the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention walking is a great way to get the physical activity needed to obtain health benefits. Walking does not require any special skills, it is a low-impact type of physical activity that is easy on the joints and muscles. Research showed that brisk walking on a regular basis can improve cardiovascular health and fitness, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, while helping you to obtain and maintain a healthy weight. According to a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health, researchers found that three short 10-minute bouts of walking a day, three times a day for five days a week (for a total of 150 minutes per week) can be enough to improve your aerobic health. 2, 3, 4
Swimming is one of the best low-impact forms of physical activities that you can do independently of your current fitness level. It is easy on your muscles and joints, offering the benefits of a full-body workout that tones muscles and helps you relax, without taxing your joints. Researchers at the University of Texas, found that regular swimming actually reduced joint pain and stiffness associated with existing joint disease, while improved muscle strength and functional capacity.5
Cycling is another low-impact exercise that may help you to be physically active but easy on your joints and ligaments. If you switch your car for your bike on sunny days, you can get a number of benefits. According to a research from the University of Glasgow, cycling to work is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and all-cause mortality.6 Cycling also offers a great solution for keeping all of your family entertained. Riding with your kids and your better half can help you enjoy some quality time with your loved ones. It’s fun, free, and a fantastic way to experience an enjoyable adventure and the beauty of nature.
Hiking is a real active form of relaxation. It provides a stress-free, relaxing environment where you may not even notice that you are exercising. It is one of the most varied and enjoyable types of exercise, thus it is easy to start and continue. Outdoor hiking can help you to be fit, lose weight, and clear and ease your mind. You can let go of all of life’s stressors like finances, health, relationships, work and relax, admire nature’s beauty, and breathe in some fresh air. It can be a truly active vacation for your body and mind.
These days, many city parks have exercise equipment available, but a bench or picnic table may be more than enough to get a sunny workout. Let’s see a couple of exercise that you can perform on a park bench:
- Single leg bench split squat – Simply stand facing away from a bench, extend one of your legs back and place the top of foot on bench. Your leading leg should be 50 cm or so in front of bench. Squat down until your front thigh is almost horizontal, keeping your knee in line with your foot. Return to starting position by extending hip and knee of forward leg. Repeat, and then continue with opposite leg.
- Bench step-up – Stand in front of a bench. Step onto the bench with your left leg and push your body up until your left leg is straight and drive your right knee toward your chest, then return to start. That’s one rep. Repeat the same sequence with the right leg.
- Bench dip – Sit down on the edge of the bench. Place your hands on the bench on either side of your hips. Move your buttocks off the bench, and walk your feet forward until you can lower your hips in front of the bench. Slowly lower your body towards the floor by bending your elbows and then press up with your arms to return to the starting position. Use your legs only as necessary for balance.
- Bench push ups – Place your hands on the bench, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your fingers pointing forward, and position yourself on your toes, with your back and head in alignment with your legs. Lower your chest to the bench while flexing the elbows, and then rise back to the start position. Keep your head still, and looking down. Be sure to keep your torso – including your lower back and abs -, in line with your upper body. If this type of push ups is too easy for you, then do push-ups with elevated feet, and simply place your feet up on the bench and your hands on the floor. The added height increases the resistance, and make the movement more challenging.
- Bench knee raises – Sit close to the edge of a park bench, your body positioned horizontally with your legs hanging off the end, and grip the edges of the bench. Lift both of your knees up and pull them towards your chest. Hold the position and squeeze your abs for 2-3 seconds, then return your knees back to the starting position, and repeat.
- Mountain climbers with hands on the bench – Facing the bench, place your hands on the edge of the bench, shoulder-width apart, back flat, abs engaged, and head in alignment. Lift your right foot off the floor and raise your knee to your chest. Touch the floor with your right toes. Then jump your right foot back to the starting position while simultaneously bringing your left knee to your chest this time. Continue to switch knees. Be sure to keep a straight line with your spine and don’t let your head droop at any point during the exercise.
- World Health Organization: Physical activity. Fact sheet. Updated February 2018, published online: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs385/en/
- Pate RR. Pratt M. Blair SN, et al. Physical activity and public health. A recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine. 1995;273:402–407.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Walking. Last reviewed February 13, 2018. Published on-line: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/walking/index.htm
- Serwe KM, Swartz AM, Hart TL, Strath SJ. Effectiveness of Long and Short Bout Walking on Increasing Physical Activity in Women. Journal of Women’s Health. 2011;20(2):247-253. doi:10.1089/jwh.2010.2019.
- Alkatan M, Baker JR, Machin DR, Park W, Akkari AS, Pasha EP, Tanaka H.: Improved Function and Reduced Pain after Swimming and Cycling Training in Patients with Osteoarthritis. J Rheumatol. 2016 Mar;43(3):666-72. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.151110. Epub 2016 Jan 15.
- Celis-Morales, Carlos & Lyall, Donald & Welsh, Paul & Anderson, Jana & Steell, Lewis & Guo, Yibing & Maldonado, Reno & Mackay, Daniel & P Pell, Jill & Sattar, Naveed & Gill, Jason.: Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality: prospective cohort study. 2017 BMJ. 357. j1456. 10.1136/bmj.j1456.