Exercising outdoors is a refreshing and invigorating way to get fit. Some researchers have found that taking regular outdoor exercise provides health advantages over exercising in the gym or fitness classes. During the winter when the days are shorter this is especially true as often people do not see daylight for days at a time.
If you live in the countryside then you will have a lot of options available to you, such as running along public footpaths and bridleways or cycling the country lanes. For everyone else in the cities or suburban towns a trip to the park can provide some great ways to get some exercise in.
Running in the Park
Jogging and running is a very effective way to get fit and also to lose some weight. Ideally you should run on grass to reduce impact on your joints. However, with good running shoes and a quality asphalt surface running on the pavements it not going to cause you any problems. When running in the park it is a good idea to find a circular route and time how long it takes to do one lap. Then you can work on running faster or performing more laps. This makes it much easier to work on your fitness and keep pushing yourself harder. Runners World provide lists of clubs and events around the UK.
Cycling around the park
Some larger parks offer pavements and tracks for cycling. If your park provides this then why not buy yourself a bike? Cycling is a lower impact form of exercise and still very effective. However, the park does need to be large to get the most from this. But in large towns it will still be better than cycling on the streets. Just be careful of the other park users. For more on cycling in the UK take a look at British Cycling where you can find details of events and cycling clubs in your area.
If you park is equipped with a well maintained and level path then in-line skating is a fun way to exercise. Many parks in London are filled with skaters in the summer months. Skating is a low impact (if you do not fall over!) form of exercise that really works the legs and thighs. All you need is a pair of inline skates and you are off. If you would prefer to start with some organised classes and outings then head over to the United Kingdom Inline Skating Association where you can find a list of clubs and societies that offer training and weekly “skate outs”. For Londoners CitiSkate offers many classes and events.
Circuit Training Exercises
If you can get to the park at a time when there are no children around, generally early in the morning or as it is getting dark, you can use the climbing frames to help you perform some circuit training exercises. Pull ups, dips and push ups can be performed on most climbing frames and if there are some monkey bars using these will really help to strengthen your torso and burn some calories. If you are in any doubt about how to perform these exercises ask a personal trainer, or better still, see if there are any outdoor boot camp classes running nearby. To find a personal trainer always use the National Register of Personal Trainers to ensure that you are hiring a fully trained and qualified instructor.
Many towns have canals and rivers running through them, and sometimes you can find kayaking clubs or rowing clubs that organise regular classes on the river. This can make a real change from the usual form of exercise and they often have a really good social scene. The Canoe England organisation keeps a database of clubs so if there is something nearby you should be able to find it there.
Overall, exercising in the park is a refreshing and enjoyable way to get fit. If you exercise with others you will also have more fun. Circuit training with boot-camp class, cycling or skating with your family or jogging with the local running clubs, all will brighten your day and make you healthier.
“A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments” by
Diana E Bowler, Lisette M Buyung-Ali, Teri M Knight and Andrew S Pullin. BMC Public Health 2010, 10:456 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-456.