The weather is starting to warm up, which is great news for those who prefer outdoor recreation over indoor recreation. If you don’t regularly exercise outdoors, you should consider giving it a try—outdoor exercise provides even more perks than indoor exercise, such as vitamin D, cleaner air, and of course, no membership fees!
Your Brain on Nature
You don’t have to be exercising to benefit from the outdoors. Research shows that interacting with nature produces quite a few cognitive benefits. Exposure to nature has been linked to improved attention span, lower stress, happier mood, and increased empathy. Psychologist Marc Berman, Ph.D., and his student Kathryn Schertz found that green spaces near schools promote development and better behavior in children as opposed to children with less access to nature. Even if you’re not ready for high-intensity exercise, be sure to spend some time in nature each day. It can be as simple as a stroll around the block or having lunch on your front porch. You’ll likely notice improvements in your mood.
Outdoor Exercise Ideas
Walking is one of the most underrated forms of exercise. When taken seriously, walking can burn 7-12 calories per minute. To maximize the benefits of walking, you’ll need to walk in your fat-burning heart rate zone. Determine this zone by subtracting your age from 220, then multiplying that number by 0.7. The result is the number of beats per minute (bpm) you’ll need to keep your heart rate at to successfully burn fat. You can measure your current heart rate by lightly pressing your index and middle fingers to your wrist, or by lightly pressing the same fingers to the side of your neck, just below your jawbone. Count the number of beats you feel in a matter of 15 seconds (you can set a timer on your phone), then multiply that number by four: the result is your heart rate. If you’re looking to lose weight, you’ll want to keep your heart rate at the fat-burning bpm from your first calculation for at least 45-60 minutes to start seeing weight loss results over time. This means you’ll need to maintain a steady, brisk pace as you walk. There are many inexpensive heart monitors online that can make tracking and maintaining a fat-burning heart rate easy. In fact, MotivHealth offers a free steps tracking device called MotivTrax. Click here to request a device.
Make sure you keep track of your step count so you can earn money! MotivHealth’s Steps Program pays members $1 for every day they walk 8,000 steps or more, up to 20 days per month towards their HSA. That’s $20 per month or $250 per year that they can earn (counting the extra $10 for December). Together, members and their spouses can earn $500 per year.
The benefits of maintaining your fat-burning heart rate apply to bike riding as well. An additional advantage of cycling is muscle buildup. Once you build muscle, your body burns more calories, even while at rest. Riding a bike works your legs, back, and abdominals. And it doesn’t just benefit your physical health—bike riding reduces anxiety by increasing your ability to concentrate and releasing endorphins.
Walking at an incline takes the existing benefits of walking quite literally to the next level: it can raise your heart rate as high as running does, but with a lower risk of joint damage. Depending on the amount of time you have and your fitness level, Utah has 1452 gorgeous hiking trails. Click here to discover just a few. Consider downloading the AllTrails app to find more hikes near you.
- Outdoor Yoga
Maximize the benefits of yoga by doing it outdoors. Most people are aware that yoga increases flexibility, but why is flexibility so important? It improves your mobility and posture and, most importantly, decreases the risk of injury while performing daily routine movement. Thanks to the internet, you don’t have to attend a public session to succeed at yoga. Check out videos such as this one, and you’ll be mastering the splits in no time.
Why run on a treadmill when you can run through beautiful scenery? Running on trails with an incline will tone your glutes, quads, and build core strength. While running on the treadmill is a great form of exercise, its consistency can cause the body to eventually adapt to the exercise and burn fewer calories. On the other hand, trail running is full of inclines and declines, changes in terrain, and changes in the wind. These factors will keep your body guessing, causing it to burn more fat. Be sure to take a running buddy with you when you run in remote areas.
Park Strength Training
If you don’t mind exercising around others, parks and playgrounds make great gym substitutes. You can perform reverse lunges using a swing or park bench. You can also do pull-ups on monkey bars, jump squats on benches, and jackknifes on the swings. For additional park workouts, check out this link.
Make sure to always bring plenty of water with you on your outdoor workouts, and wear sunscreen. Enjoy!