Hold the pool float – did someone say “exercise”? When blue skies and beautiful summer weather beckon, physical activity might be the last thing on your mind. The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week,1 so what’s one way to get your heart pumping without it feeling like strenuous exercise? Trying outdoor activities!
We’ve got seven activities that’ll let you soak up the sun without feeling like a traditional workout. Grab your favorite pair of shades and try one!
If you’re looking for a versatile outdoor activity, this is definitely it. Whether you prefer a slow and steady pace on a flat trail, a steep incline with some boulders, or something that’s in between, you’re sure to find your preferred path. No matter what you choose, you’re bound to find some incredible scenery and a whole lot of adventure. Start your hike early in the morning to beat the summer heat and make sure to bring plenty of water.
The benefits: Hiking can be an amazing full-body cardio workout.2 It’s a weight-bearing exercise that may help support your bone strength and increase your bone density, which is especially important with age. Trekking on uneven ground, like what you’ll find on a trail, will make your body work harder and activate different muscles than the ones you use on flat or paved surfaces. As a result, your heart and metabolic rates will kick into high gear, helping you to burn more calories.3
Swimming is the U.S.’s fourth most popular recreational activity, and with good reason: around 91 million people go swimming every year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.4 It’s not just a fun way to cool off – take a dip in the water, and you might experience some surprising health benefits. Just remember to hydrate! You probably won’t notice that you’re sweating while you swim, but your body temperature will rise during exercise. You’ll naturally sweat to cool down, so be sure to drink plenty of water before and after your swim.5
The benefits: From the backstroke to the butterfly, there’s a swimming style for everyone. It’s also a great way to support your weight loss efforts – freestyle swimming for an hour could burn up to 650 calories (depending on your weight and effort).6 Swimming is an aerobic exercise that may also help to improve your mood.7 Your body’s ability to float in water may help ease joint pressure and pain.8 And in older adults, swimming may improve balance and strength, helping to prevent falls and injuries.8 If swimming laps isn’t your thing, jump in your local lake, river or ocean (just make sure there’s a lifeguard on duty!).
It’s more than just complicated-looking poses and chanting – yoga is a great form of exercise enjoyed by people of all ages and experience levels. Dropping in on a beginner’s yoga class will help you build your strength, flexibility, balance and breath control in a friendly environment. Try a new class on the beach, in a park, or by a lake and make the most of the beautiful summer weather.
The benefits: The National Institutes of Health report yoga’s potential to relieve low-back and neck pain, ease menopause symptoms, support weight loss and maintenance, and manage symptoms of chronic diseases, among others.9 Along with physical benefits, the meditative side of yoga provides opportunities for mindfulness and stress relief.
4. Water sports
Kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing, water polo – the sky’s the limit when it comes to exciting water sports that double as incredible workouts! Grab a friend (or two) and choose your favorite activity or one you’ve never tried before.
The benefits: Each of these sports work different areas of your body – your arms, legs, core, back, shoulders, and more. Water adds resistance to any movements you make, so you’ll be gradually building your muscle strength as you participate in an activity.10 Board sports, including surfing and paddle boarding, will help you work on your balance and upper body strength.
5. Backyard games
They’re not just for kids – backyard games like badminton, corn hole and bocce ball can be more than just casual activities at a barbecue. Get a team together and feel free to be competitive! You can make these games more challenging by using heavier bean bags and stepping farther away from your targets.
The benefits: Each of these games will test your hand-eye coordination and accuracy and encourage teamwork. With regular practice, you may even notice positive health effects. Playing a few rounds of badminton is a surprisingly intense exercise: it’ll get your heart pumping and arms and legs working as you try to keep the birdie on your opponent’s side of the net. In fact, a small study showed that women who played badminton over an eight-week period lowered their heart rates during exercise (which indicated improvements to their fitness levels) and lowered their blood pressure.11
Why not hit the road on your bike? Cruising through the neighborhood will keep you active on warm summer days, and it may even provide some surprising health benefits. Engage your legs, abs, arms and shoulder muscles throughout your ride as you pedal with your legs and glutes, stabilize with your core, and steer with your upper body.12
The benefits: Cycling is a non-weight bearing and low-impact activity that’s a great form of aerobic exercise which can strengthen many of your muscles, including your heart.12 If you make biking a consistent activity, there may be more benefits in store. A review of several studies showed regular cycling may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease; may increase HDL cholesterol; and may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.13
7. Trampoline fitness
Spring into action with a truly nontraditional form of exercise: trampolining. Believe it or not, a trampoline fitness class can actually be a great workout. Jumping is an effective form of cardio that gets your heart pumping and engages your muscles.
The benefits: A trampoline class will work your legs, back muscles, glutes and abs.14 Unlike jumping on a full-sized trampoline, during class, you’ll keep your upper body still and let your legs do the work on a mini trampoline. One study found you’ll do 68 percent more physical work on a trampoline compared to a treadmill.14 As it turns out, trampolining and running may go hand in hand. With regular workouts, this type of exercise may increase V02 max (the maximum amount of oxygen one can use during intense exercise15), which may lend itself to improved running performance.
These hot weather-friendly options might be just what you need to stay on track with your summer weight loss goals. Turn exercise into something you’ll look forward to by making it more exciting – and bring a few friends to join in!
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Stephanie Eng-Aponte is a copywriter for Jenny Craig and has written for the health and wellness, tech, and environmental industries. Stephanie graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Stephanie employs an “eat first, write later” approach to food blogging and enjoys the occasional Oxford comma. Outside of writing, you can find Stephanie photographing a muttley crew of rescue pups, brewing kombucha, or exploring San Diego.
Favorite healthy snack: Green apple slices with sunflower butter
Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and reviewed by certified professionals.
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Edited by Stephanie E - Jenny Craig