Summer is finally just around the corner; it’s what we Mainers have been anxiously waiting for since December. Now is the time to get outside and enjoy the sun and fresh air.
Here are five reasons why it is beneficial to get outside and break a sweat with Mother Nature:
— Improves mood and reduces stress. We have been cooped up for far too long. Outdoor exercise provides a mental health boost and the sunlight enhances vitamin D production, which may be partially responsible for this mood-enhancing effect. You don’t have to go all-out and run a marathon to reap the benefits of being active outdoors. Even low-intensity activities, like walking or gardening, will do. For a quick afternoon pick-me-up, head outside for a 15-minute walk break, and return to work feeling energized.
— Helps to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle. It’s time to get back on track with fitness routines, start setting goals and work hard to meet them. The days are starting to get longer, and the weather will be getting warmer. Now is the time to get back to a healthier way of living! Start with short-term goals, one to two weeks out, and make sure to hold yourself accountable in measuring them. Whether it’s weekly weigh-ins or measurements, or just telling yourself you’re going to “move/break a sweat” once a day for a week. Start small and keep it short-term. Those kinds of goals are easily attainable, and make you feel good about yourself.
— Affordability. It doesn’t cost anything to walk out the front door and jaunt around the neighborhood, or pick a trail and go for a hike. People often cite cost as one of the biggest factors prohibiting regular exercise. The outdoor environment provides a low-cost solution for exercise enthusiasts and trainers alike. Trainers can benefit from these spaces as well. Find a park, track, field or playground and set up an exercise routine. It’s free and necessary to take advantage of the warmer weather while it’s here.
— Ease of access. Lack of time is another common barrier to exercise. Driving during “rush hour,” parking and crowded locker rooms always make being on time a challenge. Taking advantage of the great outdoors can reduce these time constraints. Local trails and neighborhood streets provide ideal walking, running and cycling opportunities, while nearby parks offer ideal venues for boot camp circuits, resistance training or yoga. Many outdoor areas include stairs, benches, trees, hills and even designated exercise equipment, allowing for a variety of resistance-training exercises.
— Connecting with Mother Nature. One of the greatest benefits of outdoor exercise lies in its inherent opportunity to connect with Mother Nature and the people and places in your community. Finish that bike ride at a local coffee shop, wave hello to your neighbors as you jog the streets, or set up a weekly walking group with friends and neighbors.
Exercising outdoors can help you feel grounded, deepen your connection to your environment and enhance your appreciation for the beauty around you. Take in the fresh air and warm sunshine while they’re here; you’ll be glad you did.
If you prefer the gym, the Rockland Harbor YMCA offers a variety of group classes and some of them are offered outdoors in the spring/summer/fall. All of which overlook the boardwalk and harbor. Feel free to stop in and take a look around.
Steph Williams is wellness director of the Rockland Harbor YMCA.