There's no denying that going outside for your fitness fix in the colder months may not sound like the most tempting option. But there’s a good case for wrapping up, lacing up your trainers and heading out.
Guest blog from Laura Williams, personal trainer and fitness guru.
The chances are you won’t be jostling for space.
Forget sweaty gym and queuing for the treadmill. You'll have much more freedom if you head to the park, tarmac or green field (although beware the inquisitive herd of cows looking to pick your brains for fitness tips). There's tons of green spaces on your doorstep to get your exercise fix.
Find your local greenspace
The world is your fitness oyster.
Whether you opt for bone-density-boosting walking or running, head to a small green patch for some body weight training, or discover the delights of the park bench gym, the variety of exercise you can do outside is probably more than you realise. Changes in terrain, workout surface and even wind resistance can all provide an added challenge to your workout.
The scenery’s a bit more interesting.
Even if you’re partial to keeping one eye on the buffest guy or gal in the gym, there’s no denying the scenery in an indoor exercise environment can get a bit same-y. No such problem with the great outdoors. Whether you’re a people-watcher, wildlife fan or just partial to observing moody winter skies, the chances are you won’t get bored with the view.
Alfresco = feel good.
Research undertaken by the University of Essex found that both mood and self-esteem are enhanced by exercising in the fresh air. And you don’t need to be out for very long to reap the benefits: the research found the greatest benefits were to be found within the first five minutes. Just what the doctor order for preventing the onset of January blues.
It’s kinder on the bank balance.
There’s no denying the early month of a new year can be tough on the finances. The combination of the long gap between December and January pay packets combined with a massive Christmas cash haemorrhage can make for a pretty lean month so pricey fitness commitments and kit investments don’t get a look-in.
Enter the outdoor option. Running costs nothing; ditto walking, yet, if enjoyed regularly and at sufficient intensity, both can have a big impact on weight, fitness levels, bone health and mental health. Don’t forget hiking and climbing too. These tend to challenge both upper and body muscles that little bit more so it’s worth persevering while you build up your fitness levels and technique. The sense of achievement you’ll feel at covering a variety of distance and terrain, which only improves and evolves as you improve, will be huge, and you can manage both on a very limited budget.
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There’s more on offer for the whole family.
Unless your gym is very family orientated, the chances are it’s not your first port-of-call for a family fitness outing. Not so when you choose an outside exercise spot. If you head to the park, you can choose from outdoor fitness equipment (figuring out how to use what is a mental exercise in itself); the kids can head to the playground to race up and down slides, while there’s no better way to burn off a Sunday roast than a game of family footie.
A family bike ride is a great way to get some fresh air and explore your local area. Cycling is relatively inexpensive and offers a great work out for your legs. You'll cover more ground than if you were walking which will allow you to discover new places and give you a real sense of adventure. Like walking, you can extend your cycle and make a full day of it - it certainly won't feel like exercise!
Use the free GetOutside app to find places to exercise near you, beginner routes and ideas on how to keep fit outside.
Download the free getoutside app
Family friendly activities
Laura Williams is a former couch potato who changed her life to become one of the UK's leading fitness experts. You can read more about her on her blog at www.laurawilliamsonline.co.uk.