Everyone knows that regular exercise is crucial to good health but it’s not always easy to find the motivation to get to the gym or go out for a run. One way to help yourself feel positive about exercise is to shake up your routine and include some outdoor sports. That doesn’t necessarily mean joining a soccer team- here are a handful of fun outdoor activities that can really boost your fitness level:
1. Surfing. Despite a reputation for laid-back relaxation, a hour or two in the surf makes a great upper body and cardio workout. In order to cruise in using the power of the waves, you’ve first got to walk and paddle the board through the breakers. That can be hard work but the ride in is always there to provide an immediate reward for your efforts. Learn to surf courses are easy to find if you live near the coast and if not, surfing is a perfect holiday fitness activity.
2. Cycling. Some people worry that too much cycling will give them large muscular thighs. This can happen, particularly if you do a lot of mountain biking and uphill cycling. If leg size is a concern for you it’s best to stick to fairly flat cycle paths. Another good trick is to use a higher gear than efficiency demands. That way you get more of a cardio workout and less muscle mass.
For cardio work, cycling has one big advantage over running. The impact on joints is far less severe. If you have difficulty running because of knee or ankle problems getting on a bike could be the answer.
3. Hiking. The best thing about hiking as a fitness activity is that it’s very easy to find a really good goal. It could be getting to the summit of Mount Washington, completing a two-day section of the Pacific Crest Trail, or just making it to the top of your nearest hill without stopping for a break. There are goals for people of all fitness levels.
It can also be a very social activity. Hiking clubs exist all over the world- not matter where you are, there is probably one not too far away. These groups can help you make new friends, let you learn important skills like map-reading and compass navigation, and best of all, show you where the most spectacular trails in your area are. Many of them also provide special members-only discounts at local outdoor stores.
4. Canoe touring. With the right equipment and a small amount of instruction from an expert, flat water canoe touring is quite safe, very relaxing, and excellent for your upper body and core strength. Canoes and kayaks can be hired for circular trips on large lakes and on rivers, and tour operators are often willing to drop groups off upstream and let you paddle down at your own pace.
Any good canoe hire business will provide you with buoyancy aids (essential for kids, even if they can swim) and other safety gear, but it can be useful to bring a sealable waterproof bag or container for cell phones, keys, and wallets.
There are outdoor sports for everyone- singles, couples, and families of all fitness levels. You don’t have to be an expert to get outside and start enjoying yourself. Even if all you do is take a 2 hour beginner surfing class or go hiking one Saturday every month, that might be all it takes to make your fitness regime a little more fun.
Author: Jess Spate is a long-distance hiker, a kayaker, a cyclist and a not-very-good surfer. She writes for Appalachian Outdoors when not on the hills or in the water.