6 Great Ways to Get Fit Outdoors
Experts share their favorite ways to shape up and have fun outside.
Swimming is a wonderful cardiovascular conditioner that also helps tones
arms and legs, and it's very easy on the joints, says Stuhr.
In fact, it's perfect for people who have muscle or joint problems. The
weightlessness of the water helps them exercise pain-free.
Swimming will increase your stamina, can help ward off diabetes and high
blood pressure, and relieves stress, Stuhr tells WebMD.
Equipment: A swimsuit and maybe goggles.
Pros: Most people already know how to swim; it's fun, refreshing, and
forgiving of excess weight or physical disabilities.
Cons: Not everyone has easy access to pools, lakes, or the ocean.
Swimming is not weight bearing, so you should pair it with other activities
such as walking or lifting weights.
Hiking uses a lot of up-and-down movement, so you get a tremendous leg
workout along with the cardiovascular benefits.
Not only that, but hiking provides a relaxing atmosphere for a workout that
doesn't seem like a workout at all. Listening to the birds and a babbling
brook, and enjoying the cool breeze of the forest, provides a break from daily
stresses, says Sheri McGregor, author of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: San
Hiking is also a great sport to do along with a friend or mate. But it does
require some preparation.
"A beginner should do a little research and find short hikes that offer
good scenery without too much difficulty or special equipment," McGregor
Beginners should also be aware of potential dangers in their area. Snakes,
mountain lions, biting flies, or bees can be an issue.
You'll also need to dress for quickly changing temperatures -- think layers.
And be sure you know if water is available where you're heading. A good
regional hiking book with area trails is a great investment.
More difficult hikes offer a sense of accomplishment. McGregor and her
spouse do "extreme" hikes, requiring intense boulder scaling that
engages the mind as well as the body. For extra adventure and challenge, you
Equipment: You'll need a good pair of hiking boots, a backpack (to
carry water and supplies), and possibly a walking stick.
Pros: Hiking is a great leg, ab, and butt workout, and it helps build
cardio endurance. A 150-pound woman can burn 200-plus calories hiking 30
Cons: Unless you live near hiking territory, this is generally a
weekend-only activity. Try walking, jogging, or another activity for your
Kayaking is primarily an upper-body sport, but it also works the muscles of
the center of your body, back, and stomach.
In fact, "many beginner kayakers fatigue early because they rely mostly
on their arms rather than their core," says Brian Clark, a kayaking
enthusiast and residence life management area coordinator at Roanoke College in
Beginners should start by taking a class or clinic in a pool or flat-water
"You'll learn how to roll the kayak, paddling technique, read the river
and what to do for problems like getting pinned against rocks," says John
Benson, director of the Sewanee Outing Program at Sewanee, the University of
the South, in Tennessee.
To prepare your body for kayaking, pay attention to working out your
shoulders, abs, and lower back. It's also important to work on your
flexibility, Clark says. Pilates and yoga are helpful for this.
Equipment: A kayak, a helmet, a, personal flotation device, and
safety gear such as throw ropes. A neoprene or wet suit is good to have in
Pros: If you love the water, kayaking is a fun and scenic way to work
Cons: Equipment is expensive, and you need training before you hit
the water on your own. For most of us, this is a weekend-only activity.