5 ways to boost your health with fresh air and outdoor exercise

Here in Canada, we’re surrounded by fresh, clean air. It can be easy to forget how lucky we are, but according to a recent Fraser Institute study, Canada’s air quality ranks amongst the best in the world. We know that getting active in nature offers many benefits; including a boost to your immune system, your mood and it decreases levels of stress and anxiety. So, get out there, take some deep, cleansing breaths, and get moving with these fresh-air activities.

GO FLY A KITE.

On a beach, in a park or a vast field, flying a kite brings out the kid in us adults. Kid or adult, it’s a great way to get active. While winds of 10 to 40 kilometres an hour are best for leisure kite-flying, these conditions also challenge us, both physically and mentally. It’s called "resistance running," according to Runner’s World and it’s a technique used by serious runners to improve stamina, power and technique. When training, some of these runners actually strap a parachute to their backs and run! 

TRY ROCK CLIMBING. 

A truly awesome sport, which requires precise (and sometimes tricky) footwork, lower-body strength and problem-solving skills, rock climbing is an all-season activity as it can be done indoors or outdoors. And it’s a natural, feel-good drug. According to a study out of Indiana University, climbers who totally lose themselves in the flow of climbing enter a mindset that can create a sense of euphoria and even block pain.  

Climbing opportunities are all around us. Manmade rock walls are more accessible than ever. They are frequently part of outdoor playground equipment, like slides and swings, in the form of tall walls, with plastic handholds and footholds protruding at semi-regular intervals. If you’re curious, try one of these basic walls first, then consider signing up for a lesson at a local climbing gym where you’ll get practice with harnesses, helmets and other safety equipment. 

Once you’ve got the hang of it, take it outside, try a natural rock face or bouldering park. Consider signing up with a guided group. In addition to being a physical outing, climbing in a group makes it a social one, too. 

LEARN THE ROPES.

Tackling a ropes course is a great way to challenge yourself and breathe the air up there. Usually built amongst trees or using utility poles, ropes courses can be less than a metre above the ground or several storeys high. They require practitioners to walk, climb, swing or slide from one section to the next, while wearing a safety harness and helmet, to complete the course from start to finish. Physically, ropes courses test and improve our balance and concentration, and because of the unpredictable nature of the ropes themselves, it sometimes requires our seldom-unused muscles to jump to attention. A good thing for most of us who repeat the same motions in our daily routines.

TRAMPOLINE TIME.

Jumping on a trampoline is physical and fun rolled into one. According to Men’s Journal, “The low-impact antigravity cardio workout is easier on your joints than pavement-pounding. Plus, trampolining improves your balance, gets your heart rate up, and can boost cardio better than 33 minutes of running, according to research from NASA.” 

You can jump into this trampolining both outdoors or inside. Backyard trampolines are a common sight across the country in summertime – and they’re not just for kids! If you’ve got a friend or neighbour with one of these springy thingies, ask if you can have a turn, too. Indoor trampoline parks, meanwhile, have taken off in recent years, with companies like Sky Zone and Flying Squirrel operating across the country. These huge facilities offer dozens of tramps, jump pits, exercise classes, and games like trampoline dodgeball and basketball for all ages. 

HIKE UP HIGH.

A favourite way to get some fresh air is to hike to a viewpoint, take in the vista and simply inhale. Hiking is an activity that can be adapted to just about any skill level, thanks to a variety of hiking surfaces from paved paths to steep, rocky inclines, and everything in between.  This is why you’ll see parents pushing strollers, others in wheelchairs, little ones with less stamina, and teens and adults hiking alongside each other. According to Harvard Health, “Hiking is a good way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, particularly if your route includes some hills… and the slightly uneven surfaces engage core muscles in your torso.”

Wear comfortable shoes with socks, so that you don’t get blisters, and long pants if there’s a risk of ticks in the area, due to the risk of Lyme disease. And always hike with a buddy, and carry lots of water and a first-aid kit. 

What are you waiting for? Take a deep breath and go!