Carly Pepperell - 11 April 2022
ARCHIVED - Embrace the outdoors
British Summer Time is here! It’s time to make the most of the great outdoors and take your exercising outside.
Regardless of your ability (and agility!), there is a form of exercise out there for everyone.
It’s important to dispel the misconception that exercising has to be a high intensity, gruelling process that requires sweat and aching muscles. A simple walk around a lake counts as exercise. Think of ways to adapt your lifestyle to incorporate exercise in a fun and enjoyable way, such as rambling with friends.
Benefits of exercising outside
We spoke to Dr Hussain Ahmad to find out exactly how we can benefit from outdoor activity.
Dr Ahmad has over 10 years’ experience working in hospitals across Europe, most recently being based in A&E departments in the North West of England. As a consultant practitioner, he's provided support and advice for a wide range of patients who've struggled with issues such as obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar, and successfully improved their conditions with a combination of diet and exercise.
"Exercise, whether that be indoor or outdoor is excellent for both psychical and mental health. But it's true that there are so many benefits of exercising outdoors" says Dr Ahmad. "Going for a walk, running around the block or even just working out in the garden can be great for you. If you exercise first thing in the morning and choose to do this outside, this can help regulate your circadian rhythm, making it easier for you to fall asleep early and get more restful sleep when you do. More regular, good quality sleep can support a variety of vital functions in the body, such as reducing stress levels and steadying blood sugar levels.
"What's more, during warmer months, exercising outside can provide you with that well-needed Vitamin D. As many as 20% of us here in the UK are not getting enough Vitamin D in our diets. This vital nutrient contributes to stronger bones, muscles, and joints, as well as protecting and rejuvenating the skin.
"On top of this, in terms of calorie burn, some studies have found that exercising outdoors can burn 10% more calories than walking or running on a treadmill at the same speed. And as we know, exercising at higher intensities can do wonders for our heart health."
The benefits in a nutshell
Sunshine and Vitamin D
The biggest and most obvious benefit to working out outside is the sunshine, which you simply can’t replicate indoors. The sunshine works wonders for our mental health. Coupled with fresh air and exercise-released endorphins, the sun is an almost guaranteed mood booster.
As long as you have a pair of trainers or walking shoes, you’re all set. Obviously if cycling or swimming is your choice of exercise, then a bike and some swimwear would help too. The point here is that you don’t need to spend money in order to exercise.
No-one enjoys looking at the same four walls all the time. Okay, so the gym is a change of scenery from your lounge, but all you’re doing is moving from one room to another. Exercising outdoors allows you a complete variation in environment and activities. You can swim in the sea one day, and be walking in the woods the next. Not to mention, nature is a lot prettier than the inside of a gym. We’d take flora and fauna over heavy machines any day.
What forms of exercise can you do outside?
According to Paige Davis, owner and personal trainer at The Fun Fitness Coach, there a number of ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
Visit the park
“Your local park is there for a reason. You can have a casual walk around, or even push it up to a jog. Some parks even have exercise machines now, so be sure to utilise these.
“Taking children to the park can also be a great way to burn some calories. We don’t need to sit back on a bench and watch them play. Get involved! From pushing them on swings to chasing them around, these activities are all increasing our heart rates as well as making memories.
“Many parks across the UK are home to a Parkrun, which is a 5K course run by volunteers. They are free to enter. You can even get your times back for each run, which will allow you to monitor your progress and increase your competitive side.”
“Cycling is a fantastic way to see the outdoors. You can cycle pretty much anywhere, and there are some fabulous tracks across the UK. Just make sure you’ve got your puncture repair kit with you.”
If exploring the countryside on your bike isn’t something your schedule allows for, why not swap your daily commute from your car to your bicycle instead.
On top of the above, some excellent ways to exercise outdoors include wild swimming in both the sea and lakes, outdoor yoga (whether in your back garden or at the local park), hiking or rambling, and jogging. If you’ve been out of touch with exercise for a while, the Couch to 5K app could be a great starting point for you.
Don’t forget to prepare accordingly
Paige made sure to let us know to stay safe: “One thing to remember as we head into the glorious summer months is to make sure you’ve got your sunscreen and plenty of water. Hydration is ley to helping you recover from your exercise.
“Make sure to avoid the extreme midday sun; try to fit your workouts in either first thing in the morning or early evening.”
Beat the street
If the thought of ‘normal’ exercise makes you groan in despair, there is a new innovative kid on the block which will enable you to get some steps in, rekindle your love for games, and increase the community spirit in your local area.
Beat the Street is an initiative designed by GP Dr William Bird that turns towns into giant games. You can earn points, win prizes, and discover more about your local area and community by walking, running, and cycling.
So far, more than 1.5 million people and 4,000 schools have taken part in these games across the UK. The aim of Beat the Street is to increase low levels of physical activity amongst adults and children, encourage families spending time together, and improve mental health. It’s also proved beneficial in reducing congestion and air pollution.
The game takes place solely outdoors, and each player will receive a free card and map from the distribution point. Once the game begins, players can join teams and earn points by walking or cycling as far as possible between special sensors known as ‘Beat Boxes’. The aim is to tap your card on these boxes to register your journey, before heading to the next one to earn more points.
There are prizes worth hundreds of pounds in sports equipment or book vouchers for the school, community and charity teams that walk, cycle, and roll the furthest, and there are lots of opportunities to win lucky prizes throughout the six-week competition.