Outdoor fitness: let's get started

Whether we end up with a damp squib of a Summer or a blazing hot late Indian Summer, this time of year is ideal for getting outside for a good dose of fresh air and exercise. There are so many benefits to exercising outdoors: fitness, endorphins, Vitamin D, fresh air and that "feel good factor" are just some of them. Here's how to get started and maximise your time outside. Why exercise outside? Whilst any exercise is good for us, there are benefits to exercising in the great outdoors which you'll miss out on if you only ever go to the gym, the pool, the squash court or group fitness classes: - Vitamin D It's important for us all to get a daily dose of this important vitamin, which helps maintain the immune system, protects our bones and could even boost brain function. The body produces Vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight, so get outside as often as you can. - Different terrain The gym floor, treadmill and group training studio are all well and good but their smooth, even surfaces don't challenge your body. Shake things up a little by taking your exercise sessions outside. Even the simplest of things - a walk - will be more challenging (and more beneficial) when done outside. Hills, small inclines, changes in terrain and even wind resistance all combine to make outdoor fitness an enjoyable challenge for every part of your body. - Mood and endorphins Let's face it, even if you love the gym, it can sometimes feel a bit boring to be stuck inside. When the weather's nice, it's great to get outside. Studies have shown that the simple act of looking upwards at a blue sky lifts the mood and boost the happy feeling brought about by endorphins. Some people find it exhilarating to be outside in the rain or on blustery days. Whatever your favourite weather, get outside in it and move. You don't have to run, cycle or take part in a race (unless you want to!) Just walk, explore and enjoy. Whatever you choose to do, you're guaranteed to feel better about yourself, your health and life in general. - The social side Exercising outside can be wonderfully social. Meet up with a friend for a walk or bike ride. Recruit a group of like-minded people and set up a fun circuit in the park. Or get the family together, with dogs in tow, and go for a leisurely hike to explore a part of your local area by footpaths and byways. You'll have such fun you won't even notice that you're exercising! What kit do you need to exercise outside? There's very little you need to exercise in the great outdoors, but some things will keep you comfortable. Take a look at the weather forecast and dress appropriately. Layers are a good idea, so you can shed or add them if the temperature goes up and down. A lightweight, wind and rain proof outer layer is always a good idea. Good shoes are a must if you are walking or hiking, and of course you'll need sport specific items like running shoes or cycling helmet if you're training with a sport in mind. And never forget to take water with you! Make the most of outdoor spaces Whether you live on the coast, by mountains or in the middle of an urban area, there are plenty of places to exercise outside. Chances are you have a local park. This is such a convenient option and can be used for running, sprints, circuits or walking. Our network of footpaths, byways and bridleways are a wonderful way to walk for hours, exploring the hidden back routes around your local area. You'll discover places, views and scenery which has escaped your eye, even if you've lived there for decades. Of course, you can always head off to more challenging terrain like hill walking, mountains or beaches. Whatever you choose to do, get outside and move! The benefits for your physical health, mental wellbeing, fitness and happiness  

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