By Debra Bokur
Are you feeling the call of the wild? It’s the perfect time of year to bring fitness programs outside. There’s even a bonus: Outdoor exercise offers health perks that eclipse standard indoor workouts.
“Working out out-of-doors is great for both body and mind,” says John Rowley, certified personal trainer and best-selling author of “The Power of Positive Fitness.” “Besides fresh air, you get a more challenging and changing terrain. There is no downside.”
Several peer-reviewed studies have suggested that outdoor exercise lifts mood through a combination of exposure to sunlight and a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. Advantages even extend to increased energy levels, greater satisfaction and enjoyment, and a stronger commitment to working out.
“Exercising outdoors provides a multitude of benefits,” offers Reed Flanagan, personal trainer and yoga and Pilates instructor at Sea Island. “One to two hours of sunlight exposure is great for increased vitamin D production; and soft ground and sand causes less stress on joints … while also providing increased resistance. The ground’s uneven and unstable surface increases balance and mental activation for foot placement.”
Rowley says a brisk calorie-burning walk is the perfect way for beginners to get started. If you’re already exercising regularly, he suggests adding gentle hills for a fantastic midlevel exercise routine. Toss in steps and steep hills, and even the fittest enthusiasts are likely to huff and puff.
“Walking is a great way to kick-start a fitness routine or supplement your current one,” agrees Grant Seese, Sea Island lead fitness trainer. “Walking will still burn calories, even if it’s perceived as relatively easy. Generally, a 30-minute walk can burn up to 200 calories, depending upon the person.”
Other benefits, Seese says, include a release of endorphins that contribute to a more positive mood and a decrease in occurrences of depression; plus increased blood circulation, stronger joints and muscles, improved heart health and lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The long list of overall health benefits only add to the warm, pleasant temperatures of spring and summer that serve as an invitation to get lost and get fit in nature, for your own good.
Regardless of fitness or skill level, there are infinite opportunities to breathe deep and bathe in sunshine while getting active. Whether trying your hand at golf, tennis, horseback riding, cycling, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding or running, Sea Island’s team of personal trainers can help anyone find their new favorite activity. Beginners will enjoy getting their start with outdoor yoga and scenic walks and jogs. To step up the intensity level, gentle runs, hiking and paddleboarding let people cover more ground and get their hearts pumping. Practiced enthusiasts can maintain high-level regimens with outdoor sprints, boot camp programs and circuit training.