Congratulations! We’ve made it through the coldest parts of the year, and even up north the sun is beginning to shine. Warmer days mean more fun outside, so let’s look at some great options for outdoor exercise. (Just remember to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water when doing any of these activities).
This is number one for a reason. Swimming combines cardio and resistance exercise; regular swimming helps your heart, lungs, and muscles. Swimming is also low-impact and easy on the joints. People with arthritis or who are recovering from injuries can participate without worrying about hurting themselves, and even gentle swimming is beneficial.
The other great thing about swimming in the summer is that you don’t have to stick to the neighborhood pool. Lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and the ocean are great options once the water gets warmer. Outdoor swimming can add mental health benefits to the exercise. Enjoying nature boosts our moods and being outside offers more options for exercise. In addition to swimming, you could snorkel, surf, kayak, or paddleboard. Always check water conditions before getting in, and enjoy your day safely.
Die-hard cyclists often brave freezing weather, but even the best cyclists struggle to ride on snow and ice. Bike-riding offers amazing cardio benefits and, like swimming, can be easy on joints if you are not going uphill. Not all cities are road-safe for cyclists, but many parks and wilderness areas have bike trails. Research your local area. If you are new to cycling, stick to paved trails until you are comfortable handling your bike. More experienced riders might like mountain biking. This is a fantastic way to get cardio in while enjoying being outdoors, but do not attempt unpaved trails without a mountain bike (you’ll need the wider tires and other off-road features) and confidence about your ability to ride.
3. Net Sports
Tennis, badminton, pickleball, and volleyball! Many public parks have areas dedicated to these games. If yours does not, equipment is relatively cheap and can be set up in a yard. You may also be able to set up a net in a park if the posts don’t need to be buried. These games make you run, jump, and hit. They provide excellent exercise—but they also need to be played with other people. Living healthy means more than physical exercise. We also need to care for ourselves mentally and emotionally. Spending time with other people is important for our emotional health, and net games let us do that while exercising our bodies. As a bonus, you do not need to be good at any of these games to benefit from playing them.
This one is a little unusual. Normally dancing happens indoors, regardless of the season, but Covid-19 may have changed things. I suspect that this summer, many social dances will be outside. Cool evening breezes, good music, and good company will boost your mood and your health at the same time. Contrary to what you might think, you do not need to be good at dancing to enjoy it. You definitely don’t need to be good at it to dance for exercise.
While hiking is possible all year, most people enjoy it best during sunny weather. Cold, wet conditions are less safe and require hikers to carry more gear. Spring, summer, and early fall are ideal for people who aren’t very advanced hikers; they don’t need to haul as much weight, and drier trails help prevent slipping.
Hiking also caters to a wide range of abilities. Some trails are very gentle; a few are even wheelchair-accessible. Many are moderate and don’t require much technical skill but do require some physical fitness. Still other trails are for the ambitious: technically difficult, long, or both. Whatever your hiking level, there’s a trail for you. Even easy trails often have amazing scenery and wildlife (I once saw five bears and a cub on a paved loop), so don’t dismiss them as an option.
Every part of the United States has hiking trails, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one near you. There are many online resources to help hikers find trails that match their abilities and interests. Take advantage of them! Get outside, soak in the sunshine, and venture a little out of the way to see some of the loveliest views America has to offer.