Outdoor activities designed to provide physical and mental health benefits

Indians celebrated International Yoga Day at New Delhi’s Red Fort as the country announced it would open up free vaccinations to all adults – Copyright AFP/File Money SHARMA

With the warm summer weather shining in the northern hemisphere, participating in outdoor activities is something many people are considering. For those who are not tempted to get up quietly from their chair, the consideration of physical activity is important. Outdoor activities, in particular, bring a host of psychological and physiological benefits.

These benefits are discussed by Samantha Harden, an associate professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise and a Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist.

Harden said Digital diary: “Outdoor activities are an opportunity to get back to nature and to “disconnect” from the technological world.”

The health expert adds, “We live in such an overstimulated world that getting back to nature can give us the opportunity to find that balance we all need.”

As for useful activity levels, the US Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2n/a edition) includes 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and two days of full-body strength training.

With these recommendations, most people are familiar with aerobic exercise, but not strength training, says Harden.

She specifies: “The two forms of exercise are added up over a week. And strength training doesn’t have to be with extra weight. It can also be with your body weight.

Safety during all forms of exercise is important.

There are a few important nuances when panning out this form of exercise, says Harden: “One thing we focus on is your own perceived rate of exertion. Something that is considered mild for someone might be moderate or even vigorous for someone else. It is always important to do what is within the limits of your own cardiovascular and muscular safety.

When it comes to what to plan for, outdoor aerobic and strength-training activities in the summer can range from anything from a family walk to throwing a ball with a dog, Harden adds.

Other outdoor activities include:

  • Trek
  • Cycling
  • Kayak
  • outdoor yoga
  • A game of dodgeball, volleyball or basketball
  • Swimming in natural water or in a swimming pool.

However, there are a few safety points. According to Harden, “The summer heat adds stress on the body and it’s important to exercise outside safely.”

Harden has some tips for monitoring your body and knowing when to stop activities when you’re outside in the summer heat. These are:

  • Feeling cold or clammy on the outside in the heat
  • Can’t catch her breath
  • Become excessively red
  • Breathe too hard

Harden warns that anyone “experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to stop exercising and drink fluids and move to a cooler location, if possible. It is also possible to condition the body for the summer heat by going slowly.

To prepare for outdoor activities in the summer heat and humidity, Harden says to develop a heat tolerance.

Here she details, “Start by being outside in the heat for 15 minutes. Just like with physical activity where you’re trying to avoid muscle injury and want to build slowly and slowly, you want to do the same with heat exposure. The first day can be overwhelming, but over time at the same temperature and duration it becomes less uncomfortable.