It’s always exciting when the weather starts getting better and I have to admit, that while I’m very comfortable lifting weights and working out in the gym, when the sun shines, our beautiful Vancouver beckons us to come play outside! So we can have our cake and eat it too, right? Surely there are ways we can stay fit while getting some natural vitamin D at the same time! Well of course you can – here are a few amazing outdoor activities we love doing, that can be social or solo!
Our top 10 favourite ways to stay fit outside
by Allen Lee
This is part one of our three part series of great outdoor spring or summer activities you can do to stay fit!
Outdoor activity 1 – cycling
Start your day with a bike ride. Cycle to work, school, or as an extra cardio boost to your training appointments! It is a fun activity that can improve your cardiovascular health and decrease the risk of chronic diseases. These risks include coronary heart disease, cancer, overweight, and obesity.
Not only does cycling include your cardio functions, it can also improve isometric muscle endurance, dynamic abdominal muscle endurance, and flexibility. A study showed that children and adolescents who cycled were significantly more fit and significantly less likely to be overweight and obese.
If you’re new to biking in the city, then we suggest two great resources to help you increase your confidence on the roads, since I’m sure you weren’t imagining yourself enjoying a bike ride, being passed by Hummers and construction trucks
Vancouver.ca provides a trip planner so you can pick your starting point and destination, and the safest pathway between the two.
Bike Sense is a webpage that basically acts as a “bicycle operations manual” and provides resources for cycling courses. We definitely recommend taking a safety course if you have any hesitation around being safe on the roads.
Cycling is a win-win situation; you can have fun, be social, protect the environment, and improve overall fitness!
Outdoor activity 2 – running
Treadmills are great for controlled training, but once in awhile especially when the sun is out and there seems to be a million people on the seawall…(or maybe that’s why you’d rather be on the treadmill – too many people!), you might want to “pound the pavement” too!
Running is one of the most popular and most inexpensive exercise that could be done anywhere. The track is a very popular place for running as the flooring provides low impact on your joint. There are a couple fun running programs that I recommend trying with your friends and family. Click here to try the Vancouver Sun Run’s learn to run 10k program.
often offer group classes as well. A well structured course will have a variety of levels to choose from, provide weekly running tips, progressively help you meet your goals and a good vibe (this is personal, of course!). There are many, many options available, so shop around and find the one that works best for you.
Personally, I like to do the “military run” if I have a group of friends. Let me tell you how it works:
Everyone starts by running in a single file line. The last runner sprints in front of the first runner and then the cycle continues until you’ve reached your goal.
However, if you are running by yourself, you could calculate how many laps you can do in 12 minutes or how much time you need to complete 4 miles. Try challenging yourself to reach your goal faster.
Outdoor activity 3 – swimming
If you are uncomfortable or cycling or just hate running (or vice versa!), swimming is an amazing alternative. Swimming can be a fun and easy activity that provides nearly the same health benefits as running and cycling. It can improve your respiratory and cardiovascular functions as well as increasing flexibility and muscle tone.
One study showed that a 12 week swim program can improve maximum oxygen consumption by 10% and the amount of blood pumped with each beat by 18%. Incredible right? In addition, swimming is the perfect exercise for people who have been injured or currently suffering foot or knee pain. There is very little impact on your body when you swim because you are buoyant in water. There is less force exerted on your joints when you walk, jump, or run in water. Lastly, an hour of swimming can burn 500-650 calories. That’s equivalent to 3-4 slices of pizza!
With swimming, there are a couple options – at a pool where conditions are controlled and lifeguards at the ready (as well as a sauna afterwards!) or outdoors at the beach or lake. This can be a tricky one as environmental conditions, crowds and the feeling of safety all play a factor as to whether or not you’d prefer this option. Lucky for us in Vancouver, we have accesses to pools, lakes and beaches (Second Beach Pool at Stanley Park is a local favourite!) – so give them a try and see which works for you. http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/swimming-and-water-activities.aspx
Because swimming is a specialized activity that does need a little technique, not every business on the block offers “learn to swim faster / swim 10k” programs. If you’re new to the water and willing to give it a go, find something that is convenient, you feel safe trying and have fun with it!
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These are just a few outdoor activities that you can enjoy with your friends and family. Convenient, don’t require a lot of equipment and can be solo or social. You can use these activities in conjunction with your muscle conditioning workouts (aka weight training), or if you find that you absolutely LOVE one of these new activities, then make sure your trainer knows and they can help you get stronger and have greater endurance so you can enjoy the activity to the fullest!
Who knows, if you really like these three, maybe we may even be able to entice you to try a triathlon this year! Stay tuned for parts two and three of staying fit in Vancouver – top 10 outdoor activities
Oja, P., Titze, S., Bauman, A., Geus, B. D., Krenn, P., Reger-Nash, B., & Kohlberger, T. (2011). Health benefits of cycling: A systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 21(4), 496-509.
Xie, D., & Qi, J. (2015). Running technique affects knee loading and position during sidestep cutting maneuvers. Physiotherapy, 101.
Belvoir, M. C. (2013). Swimming’s benefits. Healthy Years, 10(3), 8.
Weil, R. Swimming: Health and Disease Prevention – What equipment do I need for swimming?. Retreived from http://www.medicinenet.com/swimming/page4.htm.
Content contributions are courtesy of our Kinesiologists, therapists and Co-Op students.