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5 WAYS TO MAKE THE GREAT OUTDOORS YOUR GYM

With pleasant temperatures and longer days, summer opens up a wealth of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. It’s the perfect time to enjoy nature at its best, get fit and what’s more, it’s absolutely free!
I know there are many avid gym bunnies out there and hey, that’s just fine, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably always found the gym rather boring which is why I’ve always believed there is a TV attached to every treadmill, bike and elliptical machine in there! It couldn’t be a better time to get off that hamster wheel and make the great outdoors your gym.

OUTSIDE

Studies have shown that taking part in nature-based activities has a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than taking part in physical activities indoors. The visual interest of your surroundings can not only motivate you to exercise, but also help you enjoy it more and if that’s the case, then you’re more likely to keep it up which is half the battle won.

So, you’ve now donned your trainers but what should you do once you get outside?

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Here are 5 great ways to get fit outdoors.

Walking
Walking as a form or exercise is underrated but it is one of the easiest ways to get more activity in to your day. It is ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels and there is a wealth of research to show that walking really is the best form of exercise there is. Its benefits include:
• Strengthens your heart
• Lowers disease risk
• Helps manage your weight
• Helps prevent Osteoporosis
• Can help to prevent dementia
• Helps improve mental health such as helping to manage depression and anxiety
• Improves quality of sleep
Explore your neighbourhood or local park/forest. Try an app like “Map My Walk” to plan and keep track of distances and pacing. You’ll be surprised just how far you can walk! Make sure you have a good pair of trainers or walking boots/shoes to avoid any injuries.

Jogging
Jogging is one of the oldest forms of exercise and the next natural step on from walking. It shares all of its health benefits and more. Although jogging is a moderate intensity aerobic form of exercise that places more strain on the body than walking does, this should not deter you. Impact can be a good thing as it stimulates the development of mineral density in your bones helping to prevent the risk of Osteoporosis. Always start out at a pace that suits you and make sure you have good quality running shoes to help avoid any injuries. Benefits of jogging include:
• Strengthens your heart & lungs
• Lowers the risk of disease
• Helps to manage your weight
• Helps prevent Osteoporosis
• Helps improve mental health such as helping to manage depression and anxiety
• Helps speed up the digestive system and can help to relieve digestive problems
• Improves quality of sleep
You can try different terrains to jog on like a pavement, pathway, park or forest etc and just as with walking, you can use an app like “Map My Run” to keep track of distances covered and your pace. You’ll soon start to see an increase which will definitely spur you on and improve your confidence.

Cycling
Cycling is a low impact, fun way to get fit and a great way to really explore your surroundings. Cycling does not require high levels of physical skill and most people know how to ride a bike. According to research, cycling is the third most popular recreational activity in the UK with an estimated 3.1 million people riding a bicycle each month. It has a broad appeal too, as practically anyone can enjoy it. The elderly, toddlers, the able-bodied or people with disabilities can all enjoy cycling if they have the right equipment. Its benefits include:
• Increases your cardiovascular fitness
• Increases your muscle strength and flexibility
• Improves joint mobility
• Helps to improve mental health and well-being
• Improves posture and coordination
• Strengthens your bones
• Helps you to manage your weight
• Helps to decreases body fat levels

Make sure that before you set out on your bike, it is fitted properly to your body. If not, you could end up putting too much stress on your back or knees

Yoga
Yoga is most definitely a portable exercise and when the weathers good, there is no reason to be stuck indoors trying out your downward dog. Many aspects of yoga are about being at one or part with nature and the universe which is why many of the poses reflect animals and nature. Yoga experts believe that when you expose yourself to the natural environment, you recognise your role as part of the bigger universe and this is believed to be the main component in each yoga practice. Yoga boasts a wealth of mental and physical benefits which include:
• Improves strength and flexibility
• Improves muscle tone
• Improves balance
• Helps to keep joints healthy
• Improves breathing
• Promotes mental calmness
• Helps to reduce stress and anxiety
• Improves body awareness
So, grab your yoga mat and embrace the elements. Try downloading an app like “Simply Yoga” to help get you started.

Gardening
You may not think it, but gardening is a good form of outdoor exercise and the benefits are well recognised. You can easily work up a sweat by digging, planting, lopping and path-clearing. Food gardening can be particularly rewarding and fulfilling as you can eat your own produce saving yourself some money on your food shop. A garden can also provide an oasis of peace and calm, helping to restore a sense of balance and wellbeing. Gardening has a wide range of mental and physical health benefits which include:
• Improves the respiratory and cardiovascular systems
• Improves strength, endurance and flexibility which helps to prevent problems such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis
• Alleviates stress
• Helps to lower blood pressure
• Helps to promote a good night’s sleep
• Is useful in helping people with special needs, the elderly and those who have mental health problems, or who are recovering from a physical illness
• Helps with the development of social and intellectual skills

You can choose to garden flowers, vegetables, fruits or herbs. Just pick a spot and start experimenting. Initially you may need to spend a little money on seeds, bulbs and soil etc but you’ll soon reap the benefits and you never know, you might even get some tasty produce out of it too.

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