HealthAgenda

Physical Health

5 simple ways to try outdoor fitness

Many of us are experiencing a disruption to our ‘normal’ life, including our exercise routines. But we know it’s so important to keep active for our physical and mental health. Get busy with our five ideas for outdoor fitness activities.

The restrictions brought on by COVID-19 may well have closed gyms and sporting facilities at times, but they’ve not curbed our enthusiasm for staying fit. They’ve also highlighted the exercise benefits of mental health – whatever our age.

But as life gradually returns to some kind of normal, and local gyms start reopening in some parts of Australia, you may still be hesitant about returning indoors to exercise.

Australia is blessed with an ideal climate and plenty of beautiful – and free! – outdoor spaces to enjoy all year round, so there are plenty of reasons to head outside.

The Australian Department of Health recommends:

  • children aged between five and 17 do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day; and
  • adults between 18 and 64 get 150–300 minutes of moderate physical activity, or 75–150 minutes of vigorous physical activity, a week.

Whatever your age, you should do 30 minutes of something active at least five times a week, which is why it’s important to pick an activity you enjoy. That way, you’re more likely to stick to it.

Here are five fun outdoor activities* to ramp up your fitness, release those feel-good endorphins, manage stress and help you stay healthy. Remember to slip, slop and slap on a hat when the UV level is at three or above.

1) Take a walk – by the sea, in the bush or in your neighbourhood

A daily 30-minute walk doesn’t need expensive equipment or special clothing (aside from a pair of supportive shoes), and you can do it solo or with friends and it makes a great family exercise activity. It’s also one of the easiest forms of exercise to stick to – especially if there’s an eager dog to get you out the door.

Benefits: Walking helps maintain bone density, cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength in the legs. A 2015 Tasmanian study found regular walking also leads to increased life expectancy. The endorphins and adrenaline released by walking benefit your mental wellbeing, in turn helping your sleep and reducing tension.

2) Paddle around the harbour or local waterways

Kayaking or canoeing is not only a fantastic way to get out onto the water at any time of year, it’s great exercise for parts of your upper body that may be feeling a little neglected. This outdoor activity is also good if you’re concerned about the social distancing risks that group exercise may carry.

Benefits: Canoeing can improve upper body and core strength and flexibility, maintain muscle strength in the shoulders and arms, helps maintain balance, and builds cardiovascular fitness. The meditative quality of being on the water in the natural environment can also be a great boost to overall mental wellbeing.

3) Train with an outdoor fitness group

Leave the gym behind and join a group of fellow fitness enthusiasts in the fresh air. Outdoor fitness groups cater to all types of exercise preference – everything from boxing to weight-training to running. Often, they incorporate a combination of these and more.

Benefits: The benefits of joining an outdoor fitness group include increased muscle strength and tone, cardiovascular fitness and joint strength and bone density from weight-bearing exercises. Plus, taking part in group exercise has been found to help keep you motivated and offer a sense of social connectedness, which can lead to a reduction in stress and related symptoms, such as depression, anxiety and sleeplessness.

4) Salute the sun at an outdoor yoga class

Yoga is a low-impact, yet highly beneficial activity at any stage of life. ‘Yoga’ is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘to unite’ or ‘join’ – in this case, the union of mind and body. Practising yoga outdoors is thought to enhance the experience. Whether you practise alone or in a group, it’s best to start with a qualified practitioner to guide you.

Benefits: Yoga helps maintain muscle strength, flexibility and physical balance, and can reduce stress, improve sleep and concentration. The various poses – which often involve twisting or inverting the body – can also benefit digestion and circulation.

5) Use the outdoor fitness equipment in your local park

Countless parks around Australia, including in rural communities, now offer free fitness equipment for locals to enjoy. Most of these spaces come with simple instructions for how to use each piece of equipment. Best of all, outdoor fitness stations are free to use at any time of the day, so it’s easy to fit a session into your daily routine. Remember to take a cloth and sanitiser with you to wipe things down before you start working out.

Benefits: Using outdoor fitness equipment can increase muscle strength, overall mobility and flexibility. Any kind of gentle workout in a green space can boost mental wellbeing, which can lead to reduced stress and improved sleep.

Here are some useful links to find your outdoor fitness community:

*Due to the stage 4 COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria, a number of these activities will not currently be available to Victorians.


Words by Sally Feldman
First published August 2020

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