6 Outdoor Exercises for Mental and Physical Improvements
Posted May 05 2011 11:10pm
Working out doesn’t only need to involve going to the gym, having to deal with the crowds, and feeling uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, there are plenty exercises you can do right in the great outdoors and you don’t need to worry about purchasing any sort of expensive equipment. When you workout outside, you not only get to enjoy the weather but you can be more focused, making your workout even more a success.
There are many activities you can do outdoors that will work your uppers. This includes push-ups. To do a push up correctly, you should put your hands palm down on the floor, thumbs in, making sure your arms and hands are shoulder width apart. Make sure your legs are straight out, with the balls of your feet on the floor as well. Raise your arms so that your body weight is being supported by both your hands and feet (also known as a planche), and raise yourself up and down, making a push-up.
To make sure you are doing this correctly, your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle, and your head should face forward. Do not allow your belly to touch the ground, and keep as straight as possible. In the beginning you will only be able to do one, if that, but the more you practice, the more you will be able to do. This will give your arms an ideal workout. Although you can do a push-up in many different ways, this is the most basic variation.
2/ Dip and Curls
Dips and curls are a great way to shape your thighs, triceps, and even your abs. If you have a bench nearby, or even a tree trunk, you are going to need it. Sit on the edge, and hold onto the front side of the chair or trunk. Once you are holding on for a little support, inch your way forward until you are no longer sitting on the edge. Extend out your left leg and rest the left heel to the ground. Bend your elbows so that they are straight back, and lower yourself using your arms. Keep those abs tight and then pull that left knee towards your chest. Make sure not to bend your elbows beyond a 90 degree angle. Hold, then extend the left leg back out, making sure you are not touching the ground, and then do the other side. You can do four to six reps with each leg which is one set. Try to complete three full sets.
Just like push-ups, squats will come in different variations as well. Squats are a great workout to complete outside, and will work your glutes, legs, and if done correctly with tightening your abs, it can help that center area as well. You probably have heard that doing a squat is like going to sit in a chair, and indeed it is! You will want to keep your legs about shoulder width apart, keep your head straight, and you can put your arms straight out, or on your hips. Gently lower down as though you are going to sit in a chair, but stop when your upper leg area runs parallel to the floor (if you can go that low). You will want to be sure your knee caps do not go over your toes because this means you are not completing the squat correctly. You can do three sets of about fifteen each. There are several ways to do squats, but this is the very basic one.
Now that you have some ideas for your uppers and lowers, you will want to work that mid zone. Just as you can do crunches or other abdominal exercises at the gym, you can do them outside as well. You will want to be sure you are not on a hard surface or on rocks. Lay on your back, put your feet so they are flat on the floor and your knees are up, but only about shoulder width apart. Place your hands towards the tips of your ears, engage your abdominal, and crunch up. Do not sit all the way up but instead, you want to push your chest and head up towards the sky. You will hurt your back otherwise. Do several of these, and enjoy the beautiful nature’s scenery! These also come in various versions but for beginners, these basic crunches are ideal.
A great exercise that you probably have not done in years is jumping jacks. You do these by jumping your legs out towards the side, and raising your hands for a clap over your head, simultaneously. These are great because you can do them between your other exercises to get your heart rate really going. If jumping jacks aren’t your thing, you can always just simply jump lightly, or jump as high as you can. If you really want a challenge you can do a squat jump. This is when you are landing from your jump, you go deep into a squat position, then raise to jump from there.
6/ Up The Hill
Using a hill to workout can also be of great benefit. The steeper the hill, the better! If you really want to work out your legs, sprint up the hill as fast as you can, while pumping your arms. You will want to be very careful that you do not hurt yourself so if you are not a runner and have never done these before, start with a walk, then a jog, then work your way up to a sprint. Once you have gotten up the hill, walk back downhill. How many times you repeat this will depend on the size of the hill. If it is a large hill, only do this about three to four times. If it is a short hill, do it about six to seven times. Be sure to use discretion because only you know what you body can handle which working out.
Other Fun Outdoor Exercises
Don’t forget that in the great outdoors we also have lakes, and ponds. If you are allowed to, go for a swim which will be a great workout. If you happen to have a pool, use it to your advantage. Swimming is very healthy for you! If you enjoy scenery, look into going on a hike on local trails.
Walking is very beneficial for your heart and you can go almost anywhere even without trails. Don’t forget to dance! Although you may not want to do this where someone can see you, if you have a private backyard and want to try something out of the ordinary, put on some music and dance. This is a great cardio workout that is also quite fun!
Working Out With a Partner
While it is great to work out by yourself, you can also benefit from working out with a partner in the great outdoors. There are several exercises you can do together while enjoying the sun and each other’s company.
Start with a wheelbarrow push-up. This will help in toning your shoulders, chest, abs, glutes, and triceps. Basically, you get down in push-up position as we previously discussed, only you are going to have your partner hold up your ankles. You are probably familiar with the wheelbarrow race and this is just like that only you stay still, and do push-ups as you normally would. Make sure your back is straight as well as your legs. You want to look like a wheelbarrow, hence the name. Do as many as you can!
You can also do tree limb Pull-up with your partner. It will work your shoulders, biceps, and upper back. Grab a tree, or even a monkey bar, and grab the bar or branch with your palms facing you. Tilt your head back slightly so that your chin is raised a bit. Cross your legs at the bottom and have your partner help you as you go. Try all you can to pull yourself up without having to rely on your partner, and do as many as you possibly can. While this is a very hard exercise, overtime you will get better and your partner may no longer need to assist.
Another great workout to complete outside with your partner is something called foot-to-foot bicycle. To do these, lay on your back, keeping in mind that your feet will be against each other. Press your feet together against your partner, and lift them off the ground so that your calves run parallel to the ground. Hold in your abs tight, put your hands towards your ears, and as you pull up your torso area, your left knee will go in towards your chest, and so will your partners. You will be working together in your workout by working against each other creating a little resistance. You don’t need to move fast, and hold each time, before doing the other side. Both sides once will equal one rep. You should be able to do about twenty reps.
Using Nature as Your Equipment
You can always get really creative and use nature as your own personal gym equipment. For example, if you have a tree trunk or picnic bench nearby, you can do step ups on them. Put your hands on your hips, step up using one leg, nice and slowly so you feel the strain, and then come back down using control. Do the same for the other leg completing ten to fifteen on each side, for three sets. These will work your legs including hamstrings, and the glutes.
If you have a branch nearby, use it to complete chin-ups. Grip the branch with your hands, and with all your strength, pull your body up so that your chin is right above the branch. These are very hard, but as with anything else, the more practice the better. These are just a couple of ideas to get you using nature as your very own gym!
What The Research Says
According to research the benefits of working out outdoors has been confirmed to be beneficial. In a recent study done at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, published in the Environmental Science and technology, it was proven that there were benefits both physically and mentally, from working out in a natural environment. The trials were performed on 833 adults who compared both working inside and outside. Both children and adults participated and they all experienced a decrease in tension, decrease in anger, and positive engagement when working in a natural environment. Their mental well being was enhanced, and therefore, they were able to have more effective physical activity.
So you see working out in nature can really be beneficial. It is easy to do, and help you to experience the ideal workout. Be sure you stretch both before and after. Add in some cardio whether it is a walk, a jog, run, bicycle ride, and it will benefit you. If you workout outdoors, let us know if you enjoy it and feel your workout is enhanced, or if you do not prefer it.