Many of us have begun associating fitness and exercise with time spent at the gym and measuring our goals in terms of time, reps, or weight. But for much of human history, fitness was an organic aspect of living in nature and undergoing daily activities.
While modern life doesn’t include as much of the natural world as it once did, we can still find ways to be healthy and get fit in the outdoors, without special machines or equipment. Taking your workout into nature also offers the benefit of variety and unpredictability that is essential for whole-body fitness and exercising your mind as well as your body.
Keep in mind that getting to and from your nature destination can be part of the workout. For example, you could drive to a lake for swimming, the mountains for climbing, or the woods for a hike, but consider cycling there instead. Your workout can begin at your front door, and boost cardiovascular fitness the whole time.
Hit the lake.
Swimming is a fantastic, low-impact, full body workout. While it’s more of a workout to swim in rivers and oceans, be mindful of risks from rocks and currents.
Get off the pavement.
Running and jogging in sand or gravel increases the intensity of your workout and exercises your stabilizing muscles.
Use the trees.
Trees offer a lot of ways to augment your workout. Climb a tree, do some pull-ups, or practice a wall-sit against the trunk. Use different trees and different branches for different heights and intensity of the exertion.
Find a hill.
Hills are ideal for high-intensity intervals. Sprint up and walk down. Run uphill backwards. Find different hills of different steepness for variety.
Do some lifting.
If you live in a rocky area, practice lifting and carrying different stones. Throwing heavy rocks works different muscle groups than simply lifting weights, and improves hand-eye coordination as well.
Climb a boulder.
Even hiking up steep rocks can be a great workout. If you can, practice bouldering for upper body strength and mental toughness.
Go up a grade.
Cycling up a slope is a tough natural workout, with the added benefit of a relaxing cool-down ride on the way home.
Get creative with the natural environment around you.
Even very urban areas typically have parks, playgrounds, or promenades that can offer a variety of physical challenges. If need be, take inspiration from parkour, and look at stairways, handrails, and fire escapes in a whole new way!
While these activities generally don’t require additional gear or equipment, there are a few things to keep in mind to protect yourself during a nature workout.
Always wear sweat-through, sweat-proof sunscreen to protect your skin, even on cloudy days. Re-apply sunscreen if you are out for more than a couple hours, or are swimming or sweating heavily. Not only do you lower your long-term risk of skin cancer, but you should spare yourself a painful and annoying sunburn.
Hydrate thoroughly before and after a nature workout, and carry fluids with you. Dehydration is a real risk, and you don’t want to run out of steam a long way from home.
Shoes are essential for protecting your health and preventing injury, particularly if you are in un-paved, natural areas. Choose the right shoes for the activity, make sure they fit well, and are broken in before you venture into the wild.
Go in stages.
If you overdo it and exhaust yourself, it can be demoralizing to face a long walk or ride back to civilization. Early in your fitness journey, try to go in loops so you aren’t too far away from home or your car, in case you develop a blister, an injury, or just can’t go any more. Keep a phone with you.
Getting out In Nature Is Good for Your Body, Mind, and Mood. Use Common Sense and Be Safe, and Remember that The World Is Your Gym. Attack It! 🙂 🙂