Early summer brings sunny skies and warmer temperatures, and the perfect opportunity to spend time outdoors to work in more daily physical activity. It’s no secret that exercise is important for maintaining good health. Physical activity is one of the simplest and most effective ways to bring down blood sugar levels, cut the risk of cardiovascular disease, help weight loss, lower stress, increase balance and flexibility and improve sleep. The American Diabetes Association recommends ”a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise per week, spread over at least 3 days with no more than 2 days between sessions for most adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes”. This may sound like a lot, but did you know that many outdoor activities count as exercise? Let’s take a look at some fun ways you can meet your activity goal while enjoying outdoor surroundings at the same time!
1. Head out for a walk
One of the easiest ways to get outside and add movement to your day is walking- it doesn’t require any equipment (except some sturdy, comfortable shoes), is low-skill, and can be done virtually anywhere. A multitude of research points to the benefits of walking which include weight management, blood sugar and blood pressure control, improvements in balance and joint flexibility, and bone strength, not to mention better sleep and lower stress levels.
- Take a stroll in your neighborhood with family or friends before work or in the evening or head outside for a quick walk on your lunch hour to get some fresh air
- Do some loops at the local school track in your area
- Enjoy a nature walk at a nearby park
- Explore a new town or area with a long walk to check out the sights
- Going to the beach? Walk along the sand before relaxing by the ocean
2. Try paddleboarding or kayaking
Two basic watersports that are very popular are standup paddle boarding and kayaking. A paddleboard is a flat buoyant board, similar to a surfboard (though much bigger) and you can kneel, sit or stand on it while using a double-bladed paddle to propel yourself across a body of water like lakes, rivers, oceans, or bays. A kayak is a lightweight, slim and small boat that is used by one or two people at a time in a seated position, also using a double-bladed paddle to move across the water. Both paddleboarding and kayaking are great workouts that can burn a significant amount of calories and strengthen both the arm and abdominal muscles while enjoying the outdoors.
- You do not need to purchase a kayak or paddleboard, there are many places that offer to rent them on an hourly basis
- If you are new to paddleboarding or kayaking start by taking a private or group lesson- there are various tours and classes that are offered
- Make sure to wear a coast guard approved personal floatation device (aka lifejacket) for your safety
- Keep first-time trials to 1-2 hours as you are getting used to this new workout
- Calmer, smaller bodies of water without current like lakes or ponds tend to be ideal for beginners
- Go with friends or family as a new exercise experience to enjoy together
3. Enjoy a bike ride
Bike riding is a wonderful way to get out and enjoy your surroundings and can even be
an inexpensive and environmentally friendly form of transportation. Riding a bike is
a low-impact form of exercise for those who have joint concerns, and it is great for
beginners that want to be able to start at a lower intensity. It can be a great cardio
workout that strengthens your leg muscles while also improving balance, coordination, and posture.
- You don’t need to buy an expensive bike, investigate used secondhand bikes to cut costs
- Join a local biking group or bike with friends and family for a social outing while getting in an activity
- Consider biking instead of driving short distances if there is a safe biking route available
- Always wear a helmet and learn the rules of road safety, namely if biking in a city area
4. Get sporty with outdoor fitness
If you enjoy playing sports and are up to the challenge, they are a great way to increase your activity while having a lot of fun with others at the same time. Sports are wonderful for hand-eye coordination and working various muscle groups and getting a great cardio workout. If you played sports when you were younger, it can be fun to continue them recreationally as an adult or even try a new sport with a class or beginner group. Just be sure to warm up and go at your own pace!
- Head to the local basketball court to shoot some hoops solo or for a pick-up game with locals or family/friends
- Kick a soccer ball around in the park or join a local adult league at your experience level
- Bring a frisbee or football to the park of the beach for a friendly and active game of catch
- Tennis anyone? Head to your local court for a fun game of singles or doubles or if you are new to the sport, try some tennis lessons at your local recreation center
5. Go for a hike
Hiking is a wonderful way to connect with nature and get your body moving and your heart pumping. It has a lot of similar health benefits to walking and, depending on your course, it can be more challenging if you choose trails with hills and inclines.
- Do your research, there are tons of great resources online to find trails near you such as www.alltrails.comBe safe, try not to hike alone, stay on the trail and know your route before you go
- Wear good supportive shoes for the terrain and bring water and snacks for longer hikes
6. Take up running
Just like walking, running is an inexpensive form of exercise that doesn’t require much equipment and skill and has a ton of health benefits like improving cardiovascular fitness, building stronger bones and muscles, and helping with sleep and stress. If you are approved for a more moderate-impact form of exercise it can be a great choice.
- If you are new to running, there are a lot of resources online and at your local bookstore or library that can help you with developing a plan to get you off the couch and up and running gradually. Start slow with your pace and duration and it can be helpful to alternate short durations of running (like 15 to 30 seconds) with walking for 1-2 minutes until you start to build up your endurance.
- Join a running group or find a running buddy to keep you company and motivated
- Sign up for local runs like 5Ks to be a part of a community that can keep you focused on training leading up to the event as your end goal
7. Move your yoga or workout outside
Are you in a rut with your home exercise routine? If you have the space, try moving it outdoors or sign up for an outdoor exercise class to mix things up and keep motivated.
- Invigorate your yoga or floor Pilates routine by moving your mat to the outdoors for some fresh air and a new perspective
- Sign up for an outdoor aerobics, yoga, dance, Pilates or beach workout class which can help you socialize while also getting needed activity outdoors
8. Go swimming or try water aerobics
Swimming is a terrific low-impact activity that can also give you a full body workout. Whether you are experienced in the water or a newbie, the pool can be a great place for a workout at your level.
- If you are new to swimming or need a refresher, sign up for lessons as being a strong swimmer is always a good skill to have
- Check into your local recreation center for open swimming lap times and/or water aerobics classes offered
9. Tend to your garden
Did you know that gardening can count as physical activity? Working in the garden can actually engage all your major muscle groups like your arms, shoulders, legs, back and abdomen! It can improve mobility and flexibility and is a form of cardiovascular activity.
- Schedule blocks of time to work in your garden as this will add activity into your day
- If you haven’t gardened in a while or are new to it, warm up with some stretching and start with smaller blocks of time and less intensity and gradually build up your minutes
- Always bend at the knees to lift heavier objects and be careful not to overdo it
- If you don’t have your own garden, offer to help a friend or volunteer to work in a community garden
10. Host a family and friends fun day with outdoor games
Make exercise a family and friend affair by spending time together doing physical activity. Along with group walks, biking and hiking, you can choose other ideas from above or try some of these fun activities :
- a game of tag
- hula hooping
- hide and seek
And remember to always be safe while enjoying outdoor activity.
- Check with your medical team before starting any new forms of activity to make sure they are right for you
- Wear appropriate clothing for the temperatures, sun protective gear like hats and sunglasses and use sunscreen
- Stay adequately hydrated
- Avoid exercising in extreme heat/humidity
- If you take medications that can lower blood glucose or are prone to low blood sugars work with your medical team to develop a plan for checking blood sugars, adjusting medication and adding snacks to keep things on track