Here’s the plain and simple truth: exercising outside is good for you. It’s good for your body and it’s good for your mind, and many might argue, much more fun than spending time in a stuffy gym.
Of course, running is the outdoor exercise of choice for a large majority of everyday exercisers, but what if that’s just not your style? What are some other ways you can work up a sweat in the wilderness?
I got in touch with an outdoor fitness expert to find out.
When I asked Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint and creator of MarksDailyApple.com, what his favorite examples of exercising outside included, he gave me three concrete answers that are fun, easy and all things you can try today.
“The outdoors is the perfect staging ground for something that most adult humans miss out on but desperately need-play” Sisson said. “It’s a great way to get active, but it’s also responsible for some ‘profound biological processes’ according to Stuart Brown, a psychologist who’s been studying the benefits of play for several decades now.”
Sisson says that according to Brown’s research, playing outside—any workout that allows freedom of expression and the ability to run around like a kid during recess— can have a persistent positive effect on the human brain. Benefits include strengthening social ties, reducing stress levels and improving sleep quality.
Continue reading to find out Sisson’s three favorite ways to play and then add one (or more) of these “workouts” to your routine so you can start reaping the benefits right away.
-The Best Ways to Exercise Outside-
1. Ultimate Frisbee
“As readers of my blog know, Ultimate Frisbee is my favorite way to play,” said Sisson. “It uses nearly all the muscles in your body, but maybe more importantly, the team-based nature of the game strongly enforces a sense of community among the players. It’s an activity that relies on partnership while strengthening your ability to think quickly and move swiftly.”
Not convinced you’d have a blast? Huffington post has a great round-up of reasons why ultimate is the “best sport in the world.” Plus getting involved is easy; just grab a group of friends and start a game or check out the USAUltimate.org “where to play” guide to find teams and games near you.
“Walking is another favorite,” said Sisson. “It’s one of the healthiest, not to mention easiest, ways of getting fit. Exercise can intimidate people, especially if you haven’t worked out in a while.” He notes that walking is time spent outside that you can easily integrate in your day. “Park a little further away from the door, take a five minute walking break from work every hour or so, go for a long hike on the weekends…It all adds up, and it all counts.”
Also worth mentioning, the positive effects that walking has on both your physical and mental health. “It can improve your memory and longevity, and studies show that kids who don’t walk to school aren’t as fit as their active counterparts,” Sisson said. “Even better, a randomized trial shows that people with Alzheimer’s disease who participate in walking programs have improved cognitive capabilities. So, I specifically endorse walking and all forms of play, particularly Frisbee, because they’re as good for your body as they are for your mind.”
“If it’s intensity you’re after, there’s nothing better than a few sets of all-out sprints under the open sky,” said Sisson. “I do most of my sprinting barefoot on the beach, where the sand reduces the impact to my joints while increasing the difficulty and I can take a dip in the water to cool off.”
“Uphill sprints are another option. They’re more difficult, since you’re competing against gravity, but they’re also gentler on the body and less jarring to the knees, since the incline reduces the distance your feet travel before connecting with the ground. Many people who hate traditional long distance cardio, I’m one of them, thrive with weekly sprint sessions. They get all the benefits in a fraction of the time.”