Healthy, Fun, Free … Just 3 Reasons to Get Fit in the Outdoors!
If you love blue skies, green trees and chirping birds, then you know why they call it the great outdoors. But even if you’ve become a tad too attached to your couch of late, Mother Nature forgives you.
Who knew fresh-air fitness was so good for you? “Exercising outdoors enhances your overall well-being by benefiting your body and your brain in a number of ways,” says Dr. Dan Aspery, BCBSAZ vice president health services. A few healthy examples he cites:
As obvious as it sounds, outdoor activity gets you off the couch and moving. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends engaging in moderate aerobic activity (meaning it noticeably increases your heart rate) for 30 minutes five days a week, or vigorously exercising for 20 minutes three days a week.
Soaking up the sun’s rays is the best source of Vitamin D. The rule, of course, is to wear sunscreen when you’re outdoors. The exception: Exposing skin to 10-15 minutes of direct sunshine three times a week ensures you receive adequate amounts of this heart-protective nutrient that’s also essential for healthy bones and teeth.1
Sunlight also lightens your mood. Sunny days stimulate the brain to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that supports a healthy mood and helps fight depression.2
"Getting physical" as a family models healthy habits for your kids. Regularly participating in active pursuits (and logging less TV or computer screen time) helps them meet the 5-2-1-0 goal to make healthier choices and fight childhood obesity. Just as important, you're making memories!
Closing the door, if only briefly, on stress is therapeutic. Among other physical effects, stresses at home or in the workplace trigger the hormone cortisol, which can spike blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Taking time for exercise, on the other hand, elevates energy and reduces anxiety by promoting the release of feel-good endorphins.3
Not only are these al fresco activities fun and healthful, they require little or no special equipment.
- Take a hike. From the Grand Canyon to urban recreational areas to off-the-beaten-path trails, Arizona offers a wealth of picturesque options—and varying degrees of challenge—for hikers.
- Ride a bike. Cruise the neighborhood, or put a bicycle rack on the car and discover new territory. Don’t forget your helmet!
- Make a splash. Water aerobics improve your cardiovascular fitness. What’s more, exercising in water provides continuous resistance to help strengthen and tone muscles—yet its buoyancy goes easy on your joints.
- Walk a mile…or more, or less. Even a brisk 10-minute walk on your lunch break can burn calories while giving you an energy boost.
Remember to always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program or engaging in vigorous physical activity. The information in this article is not a substitute for the advice or recommendation of your physician or healthcare provider.
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