It is difficult to motivate yourself to train under the florescent lights of a gym when you could be outside in the shining sun but, rather than begrudging the time spent exercising, you can use the summer months to expand your fitness schedule far beyond the treadmill. As well as topping up your vitamin D levels, the great outdoors can also provide you with a new and invigorating way to increase your fitness.

The beauty of outdoor training is that you can just as effectively build strength and muscle by using your own weight as you can by pumping iron, and you can replace nearly every machine workout with things found outside. Use a bench for your tricep dips, a tree branch for pull-ups, a flight of steps to work your hamstrings, thighs, glutes and calves – the options are endless with a bit of imagination.

LA fitnessThere are also a range of additional mental health benefits to exercising outdoors as studies have shown that being outside has a huge impact on the reduction of tension and depression, can improve mood and self-esteem, can greatly reduce anger and anxiety, and lowers stress. This means that any form of physical activity will not only increase fitness levels, but will reap additional emotional rewards if performed in the fresh air and, if you use a park or other green area for your workout, these positive influences upon your health and well-being increase exponentially. Fresh air, sunlight, beautiful scenery – all inspire greater efforts of activity than simply pulling reps in a gym.

Yet, given all the advantages of exercising outside, there are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration before heading off, particularly in areas of extreme heat and humidity. Firstly, do not go out in hottest part of the day. This tends to be between 10am and 4pm but, if the weather is particularly warm, try to do your workout in the morning as the residual heat in the afternoon and early evening can still be excessively harsh.

Secondly, when you do go out, make sure that you stay properly hydrated. The sun – for all its benefits – will make you sweat twice as much, and will leech water from your system. Carry a water bottle, invest in a Camelback or make sure to take an Amphipod, as staying hydrated is not only critical to your performance, but will also prevent muscle cramps, decreased co-ordination, nausea and fatigue, as well as heat-exhaustion and heatstroke. The routine used by professional athletes to ensure appropriate hydration is a good habit to get into, so: drink a glass of water at least 30 minutes before you start your workout, take a drink whenever you feel thirsty during, and make sure to replace lost electrolytes and salt with a power drink at the end. You should also remember that, although water is important, too much without an appropriate balance of electrolytes can lead to hyponatremia which, in turn, can cause confusion, cramps, nausea and, in extreme cases, seizures; make sure to hydrate wisely and well to ensure that your body is functioning properly.

Thirdly, make sure to protect your skin. If jogging or running outdoors is a standard part of your fitness routine then you will already be aware of the need protect your body from the elements with base layers and breathable waterproofs, but in the sunny months you must take steps to protect yourself from the harsh rays of the sun. Wear a peaked cap and sunglasses to shield your eyes, make sure that you choose shorts and tops that wick moisture away to avoid chafing, and liberally apply a non-greasy, high-factor sunscreen to prevent burning. You should put on the sunscreen before you get dressed as warm weather exercise apparel tends to be very light, and often meshed, which will not fully protect you from harm. It is also recommended that you use sun-protection on cloudy days too, as damage is caused by UV rays which have been found to have an 80% penetration capability, meaning that you can still be badly burned even if the weather is overcast.

For more information on sun safety advice please visit https://www.lafitness.co.uk/fitness-hq/top-ten-sun-safety-tips/

About The Author

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I've worked as an Occupational Therapist for many years dealing with physical and mental health patients, both in hospitals and the community. Living a healthy, well balanced life with a good diet, regular exercise and a taking a positive outlook are crucial to becoming a very well being indeed - sometimes easier said than done!

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