Spring is in the air, and after months of snow and staying indoors, you’re probably ready to get outside and get active again. Here are some great outdoor activities that will help you get your daily dose of sunshine while targeting all five of your core fitness needs. As with any exercise program, always consult your doctor first before getting started.
The Four Basic Fitness Categories
The National Institute on Aging recommends engaging in an exercise program that includes “endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.” If that sounds like too much, don’t worry — most exercises combine two or more components to give you a well-rounded fitness routine. The National Institute On Aging recommends engaging in each type three times a week. Here’s a closer look at the four categories of fitness, and exercises you can do that will keep you active, healthy, and happy:
Endurance exercise strengthens your heart and helps circulation, so be sure to include it in any fitness regimen. Indoor exercise classes and fitness DVDs can help keep you fit during the winter months, but it’s time to move outside and get active at the first sign of spring. Look into local fitness instructors who meet outside, such as “boot camp” type classes, and ask if they offer low-impact moves for seniors who want to participate. Biking and walking make good low-impact exercise options, but other great outdoor fitness options include swimming and water aerobics. Whichever endurance activity you choose, try to maintain your workout and keep your heart rate up at for least 10 minutes.
Strength training is crucial for stimulating muscle growth. Sure, you could sweat in front of the mirrors at the gym lifting weights, but training outside and with a friend is much more fun and invigorating. Try using a park bench for some triceps dips, or taking your resistance bands to the yard for some outdoor resistance training.
Stretching helps you maintain the freedom of movement necessary to go about your daily routine. Yoga classes are among the most popular fitness classes for all ages. The National Institute on Aging cautions that you should “never bounce into a stretch,” or feel any sharp pain while stretching, and you should engage in 5–10 minutes of cardiovascular/aerobic exercise, such as walking, to warm up the muscles before you start. Hold each stretch for 15–30 seconds to get the maximum benefit.
The ancient practice of tai chi makes a great balancing exercise that’s also relaxing (incorporating the fifth fitness element), and it can be done outdoors. For more balance exercises, The National Institute On Aging recommends the heel-to-toe walk, the balancing walk, and standing on one foot with the back of a chair for balancing, with detailed instructions on its website. Also consider sitting on an exercise ball to improve balance while doing strength training or stretching exercises. Better balance can reduce fall risks, so don’t write off balance exercises as secondary to aerobic exercise or strength training.