Too often people associate fitness with strenuous exercise or time spent at the gym, when actually fitness is any activity that gets you moving. Everyone, regardless of age or size, needs to enjoy a certain level of fitness in order to remain healthy. Most of us know the benefits of physical activity including better heart health, healthier body weight, increased energy levels, improved circulation and mobility. And, being outside surrounded by nature has benefits of its own like a reduction in stress and anxiety levels as well as a lower risk of cancer and other ailments which occur due to lack of Vitamin D. A mere fifteen minutes of sun exposure helps our body get the Vitamin D it needs to stay healthy and the sun also helps improve our mood which in turn benefits our overall health in many ways.
With warmer, brighter days, it’s time to enjoy the many benefits of not only being active but also getting outside. It’s nearly impossible to separate the environment from a positive state of good health. The two concepts are intimately linked and dependent upon one another and our connection to the natural world is fundamental to well-being. People are innately driven to experience the outdoors and this bond forms a direct relationship to our overall wellness.
Gardening alone can be a great boost for body and soul. The calming benefits of planting, weeding, digging and mulching are endless. Fresh air, improved mood and concentration, lower blood pressure, improved flexibility in your joints and strength in your muscles…well, the list goes on. But the simple satisfaction and delight derived from watching things grow and bloom and produce fruit is both unmatched and undeniable!
Of course, structured exercise is healthy too as it can extend life expectancy by four and a half years, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health. If you don’t already have a regular routine and gardening isn’t your thing, consider walking. Walking is considered by some to be the gold standard of exercise since it uses around 200 muscles and is a low risk, inexpensive, easy to start, fun activity that most anyone can do. A regular walking program can help reduce blood cholesterol, lower blood pressure, increase cardiovascular endurance, boost bone density and muscle strength, increase metabolism and that in turn burns more calories. Add to that the benefits of the natural environment, and, well your get the idea…
Beginning walkers can make their workouts less strenuous by limiting speed and distance. Start with a five minute stroll at a comfortable pace at first. Focus on good posture: chin up, eyes forward, shoulders relaxed and back straight. Swing your arms naturally and breathe deeply. Let your heels strike the ground before the ball of your foot, and push off with your toes. Be sure you can carry on a conversation comfortably…if you can’t talk and walk, you’re moving too fast! After each walk, remember to reward yourself with a few minutes of relaxing stretches of your neck, shoulders, back and hamstrings to help prevent sore muscles.
Come on, let’s get outside, have some fun and reap the benefits!
Susan Covey is the Director of Health and Fitness at Acts Bayleigh Chase in Easton.