The health and fitness benefits of being outside
Getting active out in the great outdoors can benefit your body, your mind—and your weight loss! Here are three fun ways to get started, plus some of the brilliant (and unexpected) perks you’ll enjoy at the same time.
Walking briskly gets your heart pumping and, done regularly, supports weight loss. What’s more, it could lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s, says a Walking for Health report. And doing it where you can see trees and sky, and hear the birds singing may boost your mental wellbeing for several hours afterwards, according to a King’s College London study.
Looking for something to do with the kids? For a family activity that you can enjoy in your local park, make a list of five to 10 simple exercises—these might be star jumps, squats, or toe taps. Then, next to each activity, write down a “landmark”—something you might spot in the park, like a seat, a dog on a lead, a trash can, or a feather on the ground. Now plan a route and walk briskly round the park together. Each time you see one of the landmarks, everyone has to complete the corresponding exercise 10 times, as fast as they can. Because you’ll all be focusing on being the first to spot the landmark and get moving, it probably won’t even feel like exercise!
The park isn’t just for energetic activities—the ancient Chinese art of tai chi, a meditative series of slow and deliberate movements involving turning and stretching, is often enjoyed outdoors during spring and summer. In China, people like to practice outside, especially under trees, because you are at one with nature and it’s good to feel grass under your feet. While it doesn’t raise your heart rate—so doesn’t count towards Slimming World’s Body Magic activity program—it’s a gentle way to get your whole body moving and to ease yourself into being more active, especially if you’re new to exercise. The practice can also help strengthen muscles and improve flexibility and balance, and the calming, meditative effects could help to relieve stress, too.
And the bonus benefits? You’ll also get…
An immune pick-up While the research is still new, a study published in the journal of Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine found that there might be a correlation between being in nature and a boost to your immune system. So the next time you start to get the sniffles, an invigorating walk outside might do you some good.
A self-esteem lift We all need a little mental health check-in to stay positive and on track—whether it’s with our weight loss or just the ups and downs of daily life. One way to put a spring in your step, according to the Journal of Affective Disorders, is to take a walk in the woods or a park, as interacting with nature can lift your mood.
Laser focus Well, almost! Nature has an amazing impact on concentration, with studies showing that our ability to focus can improve even after seeing something as simple as an attractive view through a window.
Inspired? You’ll find lots more support and inspiration—including information on Body Magic, our gentle, get-started activity program—on our website, helping you to make real, lasting changes and lose weight for life.
If you’re planning to start a new exercise program, it’s always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider first—especially if you have an existing health condition, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma.