Exercises to Do Outside

SUITABLE ACTIVITIES

The following activities are popular forms of exercise that can be carried out alone.

Walking

A low-impact, low-risk form of weight-bearing aerobic exercise, walking is easy to fit into a daily routine and does not involve any financial outlay.

Age group: to be encouraged at any age, but particularly suitable for older people.

Special equipment: none; comfortable shoes and weatherproof everyday clothing.

Benefits: aerobic fitness; leg strength; enhances the bone-building process.

Risks: sunburn; otherwise, walking is the safest form of exercise.

Recommended frequency: daily or as often as possible.

Training advice: for walking to be aerobic, it must be fast enough to affect the necessary increase in heart rate and for an individual to reach his training zone. Pick up the pace gradually, walking from heel to toe with long strides, swinging your arms and keeping your shoulders back and relaxed. Stretching is not necessary, although it is advisable to do some calf stretches after a long walk.

Making progress: walk for longer, or increase intensity by trying to improve your time on a fixed route or by walking uphill.

Power walking

Anyone who wants to enjoy the benefits of running without the problems associated with it can benefit from power walking.

Age group: any age, but ideal for older people who cannot jog or run.

Special equipment: cross-trainers with adequate support and cushioning, sports socks and comfortable sportswear.

Benefits: aerobic fitness; leg strength; enhances the bone-building process.

Risks: sunburn; can stress hip joints, ankles and feet.

Recommended frequency: three to four times a week.

Training advice: walking on soft surfaces protects the joints. Warm up first by walking at a normal pace, then do some stretches. You should then lengthen your stride as you walk, and place each heel directly in line with the toes of the other foot, so that the hips roll as you increase speed to work in your training zone. You can work harder by using the arms – punching the air with your hands. As with walking, it is necessary to work within the training zone if improvements in cardiovascular fitness are to be made. After a power-walking session, it is important to cool down and stretch.

Making progress: as for walking.

Swimming

Although it may not use the cardiovascular system as efficiently as running or cycling, swimming is excellent all-round low-impact aerobic exercise that works all the major muscle groups. It does not stress the joints, so it is ideal during and just after pregnancy, when the joints are soft. Swimming is a particularly good form of exercise for those who are overweight.

Age group: any age; particularly suitable for children and the elderly.

Special equipment: swimsuit, cap, goggles (for chlorinated pools), latex socks (to protect the feet from infections such as athlete’s foot) and a towel.

Benefits: aerobic fitness; all-over and especially upper-body strength; low stress on the joints.

Risks: sunburn (if outdoors); neck strain (if the head is held too high above the water during breast-stroke); skin, upper respiratory tract and gastric infections from unclean pools and sea water, and Weil’s disease (a rare disease carried by rodents and spread in their urine) from unclean inland water; chlorine intolerance; diving injuries.

Recommended frequency: three to four times a week.

Training advice: in order to avoid cramp, which can incapacitate a person in the water, it is best to wait at least one hour after eating before swimming. It is important to warm up and stretch before setting off at a gentle pace and speeding up once the body is really warm. You need to swim at a pace of about 40 metres (44 yards) per minute to reach your target training zone. Try to regulate your breathing and to lengthen the body as you take each stroke, really pulling with the arms and kicking with the legs. When doing breast-stroke, the head should remain in the water between breaths; trying to hold it above water can cause neck strain. Front crawl is the fastest stroke and also works the most muscles. A session should end with a gradual reduction of speed and stretches.

Making progress: once you can do 20 minutes’ continuous swimming three times a week, you can increase intensity by either swimming faster, swimming for longer or mixing strokes.

Cycling

Like walking and running, cycling can be a means of getting around that doubles up as exercise, making it suitable for busy people.

Age group: childhood to old age; children and beginners aged 50 and over are advised to cycle off the road at first.

Special equipment: bicycle, helmet, gloves, protection for the knees and elbows and possibly padded shorts or leggings; optional speedometer and odometer to measure speed and distance covered.

Benefits: aerobic fitness; leg strength; enhanced balance.

Risks: sunburn; knee problems; back strain if using a racing bicycle; hazards from road traffic.

Recommended frequency: three to four times a week.

Training advice: for safety, it is advisable to train off-road or in areas where traffic is light, and to keep the bicycle in good working order. To reduce the risk of injury, a bicycle should be adjusted to fit your height. Cycling needs to be brisk to be aerobic – taking no more than 3-4 minutes per kilometre (about 5 minutes per mile); wind speed and gradient can have a considerable effect on speed. Warm up and stretch before setting off at a gentle pace and building up to your training zone. Slow down gradually at the end of a session and stretch afterwards, concentrating on the muscles of the legs.

Making progress: options for making progress include increasing the length of sessions or increasing the intensity by cycling faster, cycling uphill for part of the session, or including short bursts (30-60 seconds) of fast cycling.

Surfing and windsurfing

An individual taking up surfing or wind-surfing should be a confident swimmer. Life-saving skills are also important. These sports do not confer any aerobic benefits.

Age group: teens to middle age.

Special equipment: wetsuit, surfboard or windsurfer, lifejacket (for windsurfing).

Benefits: leg strength; agility; balance, and, for windsurfing only, upper body-strength.

Risks: sunburn; accidental injury; drowning.

Recommended frequency: as often as desired and weather conditions allow.

Training advice: conditions depend on the location, so it is important to obtain local as well as general information about wave and wind power, tides and currents. The basic skill of staying upright should be practised before a surfer braves big breakers or strong winds. Windsurfing demands upper body strength to handle the boom (the bar that controls the sail), so back muscles should be worked on in strength-training sessions; this is very important for advanced windsurfers who need strong back muscles when using a harness to attach themselves to the boom.

Making progress: improved skills and longer sessions can enhance progress.

Ice-skating

Ice-skating is only practical if there is an indoor ice rink within a convenient distance or if winter conditions make it possible to skate outdoors. Notwithstanding the skill demonstrated by professional ice dancers, ice-skating is quite an easy skill to master at a basic level – easier than swimming, for example. Another type of ice-skating is speed skating, in which skaters race against the clock (or other skaters). This type of skating is usually performed competitively and requires specialist coaching.

Age group: childhood to middle age.

Special equipment: ice-skating boots and warm protective clothing.

Benefits: aerobic fitness; leg strength; builds bone; improves flexibility (at an advanced level); promotes good balance.

Risks: sunburn (if outdoors); minor grazes; joint strain; accidental injuries.

Recommended frequency: three to five times a week.

Training advice: for safety, skating blades must be kept in good working order. Beginners should concentrate on mastering the basic skills of stopping, turning and reversing. (Coaching is required for more advanced free-style skating.) It is important to warm up and stretch before a session. You should then begin gradually, moving into your target training zone and trying to maintain the pace. Slow down at the end of a session and stretch the leg muscles.

Making progress: work for longer or increase the intensity by skating faster or developing more advanced skills, such as pirouettes and jumps (these activities carry a high risk of injury and require coaching).

In-line skating

In-line skates enable skaters to reach great speeds – in races, speeds of more than 48kmph (30mph) are achieved. This makes it exhilarating, but potentially hazardous.

Age group: childhood to middle age.

Special equipment: skates, helmet and knee and elbow protectors.

Benefits: aerobic fitness; leg strength; enhances bone-building; promotes balance.

Risks: sunburn; knee and ankle strains, potentially serious accidental injuries.

Recommended frequency: three to five times a week.

Training advice: for safety, skates must be kept in good working order. Beginners should practise in parks (where permitted) or other enclosed spaces until the basic skills of stopping, turning and reversing have been mastered. A session should start with warm-up exercises. You should then begin skating slowly, gradually moving into your training zone and trying to maintain the pace. At the end of a session, slow down gradually and stretch, paying particular attention to ham-string and calf stretches.

Making progress: working for longer, going faster or seeking out challenging routes enhances progress.

Jogging and running

Jogging and running, like walking, can easily be incorporated into the daily routine.

Age group: any age, but beginners aged 50 and over should start with power walking.

Special equipment: comfortable running shoes, sports socks and sportswear (including a supportive sports bra for women); optional heart rate and speed monitors.

Benefits: aerobic fitness; leg strength; promotes the bone-building process; fat-burning – the metabolic rate is raised, both during exercise and for up to 8 hours afterwards.

Risks: sunburn; stress on the feet, ankles calves, knees, hips and spine; possibility of damaged muscles and tendons, hamstring injuries and shinsplints; ‘jogger’s nipple1 (the application of petroleum jelly before setting off helps to prevent this problem).

Recommended frequency: three times a week.

Training advice: training on soft surfaces protects the joints. Warm up and stretch before running, then start slowly before moving into your training zone. Pumping the arms increases the intensity. Using a heel-to-toe motion spreads the impact on the foot, and good posture reduces the risk of injury. Breathe evenly. At the end of a session, it is essential to cool down and stretch thoroughly, concentrating on stretching the hamstrings and calves.

Making progress: when you can manage 20 minutes three times a week (this may take time to achieve), you can try to jog for longer or to increase the intensity by going uphill or taking the jog up into a run for brief periods. Runners can try to incorporate short bursts of sprinting.