If you think running or cycling are the only healthy and fun outdoor activities, make sure you keep reading because there are so many great alternatives. This is part two out of our three part series of great outdoor spring or summer activities you can do to stay fit!
Our top 10 favourite ways to stay fit outside
Numbers 4-6, plus a great bonus activity (for activities 1 through 3, click here)
By Allen Lee
Outdoor activity 4 – hiking
When I say “hiking,” I’ve found that people tended to polarize into two perspectives of hiking:
- an easy walk along a gentle winding path in the forest or
- straight up the side of a mountain, 3 days away from the nearest help, carrying a backpack that is 150% of your body weight
Thankfully, the truth is both and somewhere in between. It’s like a Las Vegas buffet – there’s something for everyone.
No matter where you live in Vancouver, there will likely be some nice hike within 15 – 20 minutes drive, from the Poco trail to Port Moody’s Diez Vistas, or the north shore’s Lions or Squamish’s Stawamus Chiefs.
Hiking is great way to improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels; thus, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Depending on the incline, it can help build strength in your posterior muscles such as your glutes, and hamstrings. Long hikes can help build endurance and foot / ankle strength, and if you’re carrying a backpack, then postural muscles will be worked, as well.
Not only does hiking provide these great health benefits, this activity also brings pleasures and relaxation. When you hike, you are given the opportunity to enjoy the nature, biological diversity, aromas of the fresh air, and sounds of the wildlife. Nothing beats the feeling of reaching the top and knowing that you’ve accomplished one of mother nature’s most difficult obstacles.
If you are new to hiking, try some trails close to your home or around the city. If you have hiked before, consider yourself “healthy/fit” and a challenge, I recommend the Sea to Summit Hiking Trail in Squamish BC. Although the hike is quite long (7.5km), the view is absolutely amazing!
For safety reasons, remember these tips:
- Go with a friend. If you’re new to the activity, or the area, go with a friend that is familiar with the trail.
- Check, and dress appropriately for the weather (or be prepared for changes in weather). This includes layering and footwear. Days may start hot and sunny, but elevation and the setting sun can drop temperatures quickly.
- Let others know where you are going and give them a return check-in time (and remember to check in when you get home)
- Review trail maps or read up on hike reviews before going.
Outdoor activity 5 – rollerblading
If you ever get bored of running or cycling, try rollerblading! Rollerblading aka in-line skating is a very popular activity. Exercise experts from the University of Wisconsin Performance Laboratory found rollerblading a great activity for increasing heart rate and oxygen uptake – measures the amount of work the heart and lungs are doing to sustain the body’s activity. They also found that rollerbladers burn an avg of 10 calories per minute, which is comparable to the amount of calories burned while running!
Benefits of rollerblading:
- The striding motion activates your posterior muscles like glutes and hamstrings.
- Your core stabilizes your trunk to keep your upper body still despite the side-to-side leg motion.
- Your balance is challenged much more than running, cycling, hiking or swimming
- Minimal- to zero- impact on your joints (assuming you’re not jumping, falling or stunting!)
To get a good workout from rollerblading, exercise physiologists suggest skating uphill and maintaining the same pace, as if you were on a road with no incline. If you are just looking to do something fun and healthy with your family, in-line skating along the Vancouver seawall where the roads are smooth and flat, though be aware of obstacles like wandering tourists or dogs on long leashes (or off-leash). If you are comfortable navigating up and down hills, Seymour Demonstration Forest offers a wide paved 10k pathway that is a rollerblader’s dream.
For safety, always wear protective pads and headgear. And learn how to stop!
Outdoor activity 6 – kayaking
Too hot for hiking or rollerblading? Then kayaking is your answer! Kayaking is a fun outdoor water activity that can be done with the entire family, or with people that have never kayaked before. It helps improve your muscular and cardio-respiratory endurance and is a great activity that works your obliques, deltoids, and lats.
If you have never kayaked, but are comfortable with water, our recommendations are:
- Always wear a life jacket! Please please please because we love you!
- Go with a friend that has kayaking experience
- Take lessons – our favourite companies to work with are (we take clients kayaking every year) are Deep Cove Kayaks or Ecomarine
- Rent for only an hour or two at first. An ill-fitting kayak, or sustained sitting position can be hard on your back and legs, which may turn you off the activity.
- Start out slowly and warm up your shoulders and trunk before paddling off like crazy
- Go when conditions are calm
BONUS activity – The Grouse Grind
A Vancouver “Must-do-if-only-one-time-to-say-you-survived!”
Honestly, everyone talks about the Grouse Grind all summer and while it’s not for everyone, it certainly is popular! To learn more about the Grouse Grind in all it’s glory, read more here!
Hart, D. (2001). Get out and play!. Chatelaine, English Edition, 74(6), 58-64.
Kastenholz, E. (2007). Discussing the Potential Benefits of Hiking Tourism in Portugal. Anatolia: an international journal of tourism and hospitality research, 18(1), 5-21.
Blade-roller. (1995). Tufts University Diet & Nutrition Letter, 13(6), 2.
Robinson, K. M. (2013). How Hiking is Good for Body and mind. Retrieved from webmd.com/fitness-exercise/hiking-body-mind
Content contributions are courtesy of our Kinesiologists, therapists and Co-Op students.