Now that the seasons are changing, everyone is looking for a way to get active, get outside, and make the most of these long bright days. It’s been shown time and time again that outdoor activity is deeply beneficial to the human body and mind. Exercising outdoors will lower your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower your blood pressure, and strengthen your immune system. Exposure to vitamin D will boost your mood and make you half as likely to develop heart disease as someone with low levels of vitamin D.
So what are you waiting for? There are dozens of ways you can harness these health benefits and make the outdoors your gym, playground, and sanctuary, and you don’t need to be a mountaineer or sailor. Here are some suggestions for fun, low-impact summer outdoor activities.
Swimming is the classic summer outdoor activity, and although it seems obvious, lots of people feel intimidated by the prospect of going for a swim, even on a hot summer day. Maybe they don’t live near a beach, the pool seems crowded with noisy kids, or they aren’t confident in their swimming ability. This summer, put your excuses aside—swimming is one of the healthiest ways for people over fifty to exercise, because the buoyancy of the water takes the pressure off your joints and supports every part of your body through low-impact movement. It also tones the muscles of your heart and lungs. If you live near a natural body of water, try making solo trips—you’ll find they’re much easier and faster than trying to coordinate with a group, and you’ll find that a day alone at the beach can be a great opportunity to carve out private time for yourself. If you only have pools nearby, check the pool schedule—many public and private pools offer adult- or senior-only classes, for both water aerobics and lessons!
Never underestimate the power of a nice walk. Walking is a great low-impact cardio option for people over 50, which combines all the physical benefits of being outdoors with meditative and restorative power. If you want a “work out,” you can challenge yourself to walk 4 or 5 miles in an hour, but if you just want to give your metabolism a little boost and center your mind, even a quick walk around the block is better than nothing. For those of us trapped in offices during these glorious summer months, a quick outside escape through the neighborhood can help you feel less like you’re missing out on outdoor opportunities.
If you live in the city or suburbs and want to get out in nature this summer, go on a camping trip! It’s shown that walking over uneven, natural terrain is better exercise than walking on a treadmill or asphalt, and if you’re exploring along different grades—as you would be on a mountainside—you’ll be working muscles in your legs you don’t usually access. One concern many of us over 50 have about camping is, of course, sleeping on the ground in a tent. Our backs and bodies are old, and many of us already feel sore waking up in the morning. Spending the night stretched out across roots and rocks doesn’t exactly make someone eager to pack a bag and go. If you’re worried about comfort, look into “glamping,” which is a kind of “glamorous camping” designed for people who want to experience nature without “roughing it.” Inside your trailer, luxury tent, or yurt, you can control the temperature, set up a bed, keep insects outside, and even enjoy running water.
Fishing is one of the most relaxing American outdoor pastimes, but it can also be a lot more exciting than people might guess. The thrill of reeling in your catch can’t be beaten, and nothing makes you feel closer to nature than being near natural water. You can fish at all different levels of fitness and intensity. If you’re looking to maximize your workout from fishing, you can choose a spot that requires paddling, biking, or hiking to reach, and fly fishing, as opposed to bait fishing, engages your arms and back. Fishing is also shown to lower women’s risk of breast cancer and alleviate symptoms of PTSD. And eating fish provides you with those omega-3 fatty acids that lower your blood pressure!
Featured photo source: Pixabay.com