5 Outdoor Activities to Help Stay in Shape
It feels as though spring has definitely sprung here in North Carolina and we are celebrating all month long at IVY Integrative with our theme of “Spring into Action!” The days are starting to get a little longer, the weather is getting warmer, the flowers are beginning to bloom, and doesn’t that make you want to get outside??!! Even if you're a desk worker, you may get a chance to enjoy the outdoors either earlier in the morning or evening hours as the sun shines just a little bit longer.
But how can you make the most of your time outdoors??!!
My personal favorite activity and easiest to do without any equipment….WALKING/HIKING/RUNNING! This one is easy to get in even if it is just a quick 5-minute stroll. Even better right after you eat to help curb the blood sugar spike. Take yourself outside and walk around, smell the fresh air, focus on your breathing and posture. My husband and I love to find hikes nearby. They don’t have to be in the mountains or the most strenuous in altitude...although we do love those too! Even some small hikes in the area can be just as satisfying. Challenging yourself and body on varying terrains is great for your balance, feet and ankles. There are various greenways in the Charlotte area. You can even check out the AllTrails app to search for nearby hikes in your area. You can filter by distance, level of difficulty, elevation and more. You might be surprised to find something not too far that opens you up to beautiful foliage and wilderness you didn’t even know existed! Soak up the Vitamin D and the anti-cancer properties of fresh pine and get yourself on the trail! If getting on the trail doesn’t suit you, but your leisure sport is golfing, think about ditching the cart for a round to get your steps in! I’m putting running in the same category as it is similar, but might not be appropriate for everyone. It is a great way to amp up the intensity of your fitness in the outdoors when progressing from walking. My personal favorite way to integrate running is working on interval training. I learned the value of this when healing my adrenal glands, but also highly recommend it for training for longer runs such as 5-10K and working your way up towards half marathons. Start with 2 minutes of walking, then sprint or run at your max capacity for 30 seconds. Keep alternating in this manner and progress towards taking slightly shorter walking intervals. This allows the body and muscles to recover in between sprinting intervals which is a much more optimal way of training as opposed to causing over fatigue to both the muscles and your adrenals. You will be surprised if you run a race in a similar manner, your time will be much the same or likely even better than if you attempted to run continuously at your best pace! There are also lots of fun running clubs in the Charlotte (or your city) area that if you are more of a team player or need some motivation, might just be your jam! The group helps keep you accountable and you can try different routes or distances based on how you're feeling that day. Bonus, most of them usually end with a social gathering, possibly a free beer or drink as an added incentive.
CYCLING/BIKING- Although I don’t LOVE to promote this one because it does involve spending more time in the SEATED, typically forward flexed posture that most of us, especially desk workers, find ourselves in throughout the day, it is still a great outdoor activity to get the legs moving and work your cardiovascular system. An added bonus is you can cover A LOT more ground on a bike than on your feet, with the opportunity to see so much more of the city, greenway, or trails in a shorter period of time. I will say I do love that the bicycle, TYPICALLY promotes more use of the hamstrings and posterior chain musculature which is great for back and hip pain as most of us are very anterior chain dominant. However since most of us tend to use the anterior chain (muscles in the front of your leg and thigh) more, it can be easy to continue to only use these muscles on the bike by tipping in your pelvis and rounding in your spine. If you are biking, try to be diligent about making sure your seat height, position, and foot pedal position are appropriate. Also make sure the back of your legs are working! Sometimes I personally need to physically give mine a good pat/tap to wake them up and get them into action!
FRISBEE- I love this one because it makes our brain and bodies work in a variety of ways, that is so different from how most of us are spending our days. You need good hand eye coordination, wrist mobility and stability for throwing, and also catching. It also helps to get lower into a squat/lunge position so you can use your whole body and core to get into the motion. If you find yourself in a game of true ultimate frisbee, you will also be running around the field getting your cardio in. Each drop of the frisbee results in a team transition which works on your quick start and stopping abilities as well. This sport makes your left brain work with the right side in multiple ways and challenges your body, while also being really fun and a good team sport! If you can’t find a true ultimate game, simply throwing and catching with a partner can be just as entertaining, and surprisingly strenuous when jumping and reaching to catch, or more likely having to chase after the far gone tosses.
STAND-UP PADDLEBOARDING- This might be more of a summer activity, but you can definitely get some hot spring days that will make you want to get out on the water! This became my new found favorite sport of choice during COVID when I found myself wanting to be outdoors and needed to find a solo activity. You will be surprised at how challenging this activity can be as it requires good activation of core muscles in order to balance in a standing position. Just finding and learning your body's strength and stability to stand will be your first step, you can always start sitting or kneeling until you gain your bearings. Then you can challenge yourself to paddling further distances or creating fun courses for yourself or any other paddlers you might be with! A wonderful supplement to a walking program to get an entirely different set of muscles working!
YOGA- How could I forget my most favorite activity of all, that can be done ANYWHERE! Inside or out all you need is a space the size of your own body! Yoga is so expressional and moves the body in a variety of ways and planes of motion. It gets you back in touch with your core, your posture, and your breath. Being outdoors while practicing can be even more therapeutic, getting to smell the fresh air with each deep inhale, and allowing the scenes and sentiments of nature to seep through your body as you move. I will preface that practicing outdoors, especially on a grassy uneven surface or the beach actually makes yoga MUCH MORE CHALLENGING. It is like adding an unstable surface such as a foam or pillow under your feet and trying to balance. You lose much of the ground reaction force that is created through a stable wood/studio surface, which makes it easier to tap into core and receive energy back through the body. If you are up for the challenge, go for it! But don’t be discouraged if you find some things a bit more difficult when practicing outdoors. You can always try for a more firm surface outdoors, maybe near a basketball court or softball field with your yoga mat if you appreciate the added stability.
My online yoga classes are available online for just $15/month when you become a member of MYWINPT.com. You can take your phone or iPad and practice wherever you would like, whenever you would like!
It was hard to choose just 5 as there are so many ways to get your body moving outdoors this spring! So try my suggestions or make up your own, but whatever you do, step away from that computer/television screen, enjoy the fresh air and SPRING INTO ACTION TODAY!
At IVY Integrative, you can work with one practitioner or build your own team of holistic practitioners! Reach your optimum health in-person or online. Check out our Get Started page to learn how to work with us!
Author: Dr. Sarah Kingsley PT, DPT, RYT
This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.