Get Outside! The Benefits of Exercising Outdoors

It feels like summer has finally arrived! Just in time too as it feels like we are collectively ready to be enjoying time outdoors. Outside is the ultimate gym, providing an abundance of ways for you to move your body. This is particularly important now as many fitness facilities remain closed or, where re-opening has occurred, many of us aren’t feeling quite ready to head back into public spaces for our workouts. Plus, our summer season is short so why not be out in the great outdoors while we can.

I’m sure many of you have favourite activities that you partake in this time of year. Bragg Creek and the surrounding areas offer many recreational opportunities whether it be biking, hiking, trail running, climbing, walking, golf, paddling, you name it! There are so many benefits to being active outdoors which I will speak to in this article and I will also talk about considering taking some of your strength workouts outside.

Let’s start with the advantages of being outdoors, we all have been told the importance of exercise but taking it outside can provide much more than that. Here are some of the top benefits of working out alfresco! Firstly, it can be a natural anti-depressant. Exercise on its own produces feel good hormones and being outside can compound that effect as sunshine helps to increase serotonin which may reduce depression, anxiety and seasonal affective disorder. Proximity to nature has also been shown in some studies to have positive effects on a number of other health issues including obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

Nature can also be good for allowing your brain to rest and to process information. We often are looking at screens or getting information in other ways for a good chunk of our day. Downtime allows the brain to better remember and learn important data. Too much stimulation, such as exercising while on your cell phone, can prevent this learning and processing from happening. Often our best ideas can come when we are relaxed such as taking part in unstructured activities in a natural environment.

Other benefits to exercising outdoors include increased challenge for your body. For example, a treadmill provides a steady flat surface where you control the incline and pace. The constant change in terrain outdoors is more challenging for your body. In addition, it often feels more like play when you are outside rather than something you ‘have to do’. It can also often be more social as many of your outdoor activities can be done with a buddy, even at a safe physical distance. Adherence to exercise is much greater when it has a social/community element and it feels less like a chore. And don’t forget, in many cases, it’s free! Cost can be a barrier to activities in many cases but there are many things you can do outside at no cost.

You can still add a strength component to your fitness routine when you are outside, this doesn’t have to happen in a gym.  This can be as simple as taking some tubing or a set of dumbbells outside and doing a circuit routine on your lawn or deck. Many fitness studios are offering online fitness classes and there are also many Youtube videos that can provide inspiration. There are a number of bodyweight exercises that can be done either with no equipment or even just using a bench while walking or hiking (remember hand hygiene)! Here is a quick bodyweight workout that can be done using a bench:

Bodyweight squats or a more advanced split squats where one foot rests on the bench behind you while you lower into a squat keeping your knee from advancing too far over the toes. Calf raises can be done also using the back of the bench as a balancing point. Step ups onto the bench will work your legs and gluts. For upper body, pushups  can be done from either the back (easier) or seat (harder) of bench. Tricep dips can be done off the seat of the bench remembering not to sag through the shoulders and keep bum close to the edge of the bench (easier is with knees bent, harder with straight legs). A plank can be done off the back of the bench (easier) or seat of the bench (harder). Try for 3 rounds of 12-15 reps of each exercise with the exception of plank which can be held for 30-45 seconds maintaining good form. This is just a simple idea of exercises that can be done with no equipment.  

A few things to remember while being active outdoors. Wear a hat and good sunscreen if you are out in the heat of the day. Also, stay hydrated, and have adequate water with you. Tick protection is recommended in some areas as is bear spray. Good footwear is also important to provide adequate support and stability while you navigate more uneven terrain. Lastly don’t forget the safety equipment that might be required for your particular activity, like a helmet.

Enjoy being active outdoors close to home this summer. Challenge yourself to try something new and remember to add some strength work to your routine. Not only are there many great outdoor options in Bragg Creek but we are lucky to have a variety of studios who have some fabulous in person and online offerings also. We are happy to be collaborating with The Heart to offer an online full body strength/cardio class Monday evenings at 7pm. Take your device outside and join in. Keep well and stay active!

Tish Resta

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

Co-owner Bragg Creek Physiotherapy