Ahhh, warmer weather and longer days...
Doesn't it make you want to get outside?
May is the month to move! The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition has named May National Physical Fitness and Sports month.
Many know that physical activity has countless health benefits, but did you know that physical activity in the great outdoors may have even more benefits?
Exercising outdoors improves mood and self-esteem while reducing stress, mental fatigue, anger, and depression. In addition, outdoor activities lower blood pressure, reduce rates of nearsightedness, and improve Vitamin D levels.
Contrary to these benefits many Americans are spending more time indoors in front of a variety of screens.
With increased awareness of the benefits of exercising outdoors, communities are committing spaces and resources toward promoting outdoor activity.
Neighborhood parks are relatively common in many areas. More recently, spaces including walking trails and bike paths have become popular. Stand up paddle boarding is another outdoor activity that has increased in recent years as spaces have been created to promote it on rivers, ponds, lakes, and oceans.
Parks are often ideal places to participate in outdoor fitness and sport since many are free or have low cost memberships. Some park services even offer group exercise classes at little or no cost.
Another great place to learn ways to enjoy outdoor physical activity is at summer camp.
Summer camps are an excellent place for kids to continue learning and exploring nature. Spending time outside can also improve attention and hyperactivity. Kids identified with ADHD show reduced symptoms after participating in outdoor activities.
Amazingly, the effects are so potent that as little as 20 minutes outdoors produces results equivalent to a standard dose of Adderall. Summer camps are available for children of all ages, interests, and abilities.
Find a summer camp to fit your needs at SummerCamps.com.
While there is yet to be a standardized recommendation for outdoor activity, it’s clear it should be a regular part of physical activity routines. Resources to help you and your kids move outside include Boston-based OutdoorsRx and Marathon Kids, among others.
In general, the current physical activity guidelines recommend adults engage in at least 150 minutes of physical activity weekly, and youth engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Think how much more enjoyable that time could be if it were spent outside with family or friends!
Outdoor activities should be fun! While many avoid the gym, claiming it is too boring, quite the opposite is true for outdoor exercise. There are so many options including:
- Playing sports such as volleyball, basketball, tennis, golf, or soccer
- Water sports including kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boards, or swimming
- Rock climbing
- Playing with kids at the playground
- Walk or bike to school or work
With so many options, you’re sure to find something pleasing for the whole family. Try different activities all summer long and you’ll never get bored! You might even discover your new favorite hobby.
Outdoor Activity Safety
The summer months are an outstanding time to take advantage of weather that encourages outdoor activity, but it’s also a time to use caution. Heed the advice of these tips from Kaiser Permanente to exercise safely outdoors this summer:
No matter what type of physical activity you choose, setting goals, tracking your progress, and rewarding yourself for achieving those goals is an important part of maintaining motivation.
Consider participating in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award program. It can help everyone over the age of 6 set physical activity and nutrition goals, track progress, and reward themselves or others for achieving set goals.
Need more motivation? Some apps will pay you to exercise!
How will you move in May?
Greenleaf, A.T., Bryant, R.M. & Pollock, J.B. Nature-based counseling: integrating the healing benefits or nature into practice. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling (2014) 36: 162. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10447-013-9198-4
Maier, J. & Jette, S. Promoting nature-bassed activity for people with mental illness through the U.S. “Exercise is Medicine” initiative. American Journal of Public Health (2016) 106: 5. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303047
Taylor, A.F., & Kuo, F.E. Children with attention deficits concentrate better after a walk in the park. Journal of Attention Disorders (2009) 12: 5. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1087054708323000