By Amanda Wilks
Nothing slows down your exercise routine like falling into a rut. Staring at the same gym walls day in and day out may be great for familiarity but they’re a death knell for keeping an athletic routine feeling fresh and engaging throughout the course of the year. By mixing up how you keep fit with outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling, you can keep your commitment to athleticism fun and fresh rather than unpleasant and repetitive.
Compelling reasons to ditch the gym are many and varied with the allure of fresh air and switching up your exercise routine unexpectedly topping out the list. As is the case with any new venture, however, knowing how to approach the outdoors and your new athletic routine can be crucial in ensuring you get the most out of your time spent under sunny skies. When the weather cooperates, and you just can’t stand another day on the treadmill, try these three fun diversions that are surprisingly healthy for you.
3 Engaging Outdoor Activities that Complement Your Fitness Routine
When it comes to fitting a new outdoor activity into an already-established routine it’s not hard to see why so many people dedicate portions of their day to bike riding.
It’s difficult to spend enough time listing the health benefits of riding a bike but it can be boiled down to its effective nature when it comes to cardio and working out the entire body without putting additional stress and strain on your joints. The long-term health benefits of taking joint stress out of an exercise routine could keep your knees and hips working for several years more than they might otherwise, which almost makes it worthwhile on its own.
The equipment cost necessary for starting to cycle isn’t prohibitive, either. Affordable bike options for most gentle riding, paired with protective equipment to safeguard you from spills, is unlikely to set you back more than a few hundred dollars for solid entry-level equipment. Crafty exercise enthusiasts are often quick to realize this can even turn into a money-saving investment over time if bike riding takes the place of time that would otherwise be spent driving which can easily chew into your exercise time and leave you idle for unhealthy stretches throughout the day.
Pair the low cost of entry with the benefits of joint-saving exercise that lets you see more of the world around you and you’re on the right path to an effective and enjoyable way to spend an afternoon working out.
For the more adventurous, hiking opens up new avenues for enjoying nature in ways other exercises just plain cannot. Much like bike riding, hiking encourages exploration and leaves your mind free to wander as you enjoy the lack of restriction an outdoor wandering can gift you with. Walking might even be a replacement for major exercises and hiking, which encourages movement through uneven terrain and pushes beyond what a simple walk might consider appropriate, could be even better for you.
Many cities and townships host walking or hiking trails for those of varied levels of skill. Finding a place to hike doesn’t necessarily mean a multi-hour drive out to the nearest hilly area: You might be surprised by just how many trails are situated within a stone’s throw of where you live.
Getting into hiking can be even cheaper than going shopping for a bike, too. If you already have clothes that are comfortable to walk in and sturdy boots to keep your feet properly planted against the ground, you’ve already collected most of the specialized gear you need for a hike.
Having trouble keeping up with leg day? Walking will give you more thigh and calf exercise than you might have thought possible to fit into one day and boosts your cardiovascular health at the same time. Working a hike into your routine might just be the most soothing way to unwind and see local sights while still sticking to your health goals.
Last but certainly not least, swimming rounds out the list with a unique set of benefits that might not be immediately apparent. While its merits as a full-body workout are easy to see and its accessibility can boil down to owning a pair of swimming goggles and a bathing suit, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to going for a swim. For starters, wear on your body is more evenly distributed during a swim than it is with many more traditional exercises, thanks to the pressure distributed across your entire body while in the water.
You’ll also notice unspoken benefits in how your training yourself to hold your breath underwater can strengthen your lungs and respiratory system simply by virtue of exercising in an efficient manner. While you might tend to take in slow breaths that are quickly exhaled during your average exercise, swimming promotes quick breaths that are held for longer periods of time. This simple change can make a big difference in boosting how your blood’s oxygen absorption rates effectively put your oxygen to good use.
Those with concerns for their long-term health will again reap the benefits in less wear and tear put on your spine. Stretching out in the water and loosening the compression our backs deal with as we walk, run or even sit for extended periods of time can only be achieved through specific circumstances and swimming just so happens to be one of the lucky few.
The Bottom Line
In short, there is no wrong way to enjoy the outdoors, but if you’re looking to keep yourself healthy without burning out at the gym, knowing how to get the most out of a good day’s worth of weather can help drive away gym fatigue and keep your health commitments feeling fresh. It doesn’t hurt going for a cycling trip around the block or a dip in a local stream. On the contrary, it can help your mind unwind while your body trains, too.