While most of summer this year has been pretty wet, we are finally getting a glimpse of the hot stuff just in time to end the holidays, and what better way to enjoy than heading to the park. And what better way to stay active than by embracing the green sanctuaries of parks? Whether you're a seasoned park-goer or a newbie to the outdoor fitness scene, this blog will guide you through some tips and tricks to help you make the best of parks during the hot season. So grab your water bottle, put on your sunscreen, and let's dive in!
Exercising outdoors and connecting with nature offers a multitude of benefits for both our physical and mental wellbeing. Firstly, exercising outdoors allows us to breathe in fresh air, which is often cleaner and more oxygen-rich than indoor air. This influx of oxygen improves our lung capacity, boosts circulation, and enhances overall cardiovascular health.
The natural terrain of parks, such as grass, trails, and hills, provides a varied and dynamic environment for our workouts, engaging different muscle groups and challenging our balance and coordination. Whether it's running along a trail, cycling through a park, or practising yoga on the grass or your balcony, outdoor exercises often require more effort due to factors like uneven surfaces and wind resistance, leading to a more intense and effective workout.
Outdoor workouts also provide an opportunity to soak up some much-needed vitamin D. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy bones, regulating mood, and supporting our immune system. Spending time outdoors in parks exposes us to sunlight, allowing our bodies to produce vitamin D naturally. Just be sure to practise sun safety and apply sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays - and consider exercising outside during the cooler hours of the day.
Parks are great places for our mind, too
Being surrounded by nature during our workouts also has a positive impact on our mental wellbeing. Science has shown that spending time in green spaces can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. The calming effect of nature helps to lower cortisol levels, the stress hormone, while increasing the production of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in our brains.
Exercising in a park allows us to immerse ourselves in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature, providing a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether it's the gentle rustle of leaves, the chirping of birds, or the scent of blooming flowers, these sensory experiences can have a soothing and rejuvenating effect on our minds.
Furthermore, exercising in nature can enhance our focus and concentration. Research suggests that exposure to natural environments can improve cognitive function, increase creativity, and boost mental clarity. So, if you're feeling stuck or experiencing a mental block, a workout in the park might just be the solution to spark inspiration and get those creative juices flowing.
Lastly, exercising outdoors offers a sense of freedom and connection with the world around us. Whether it's feeling the breeze against our skin, observing the changing seasons, or witnessing the beauty of wildlife, nature has a way of reminding us of our place in the larger ecosystem. This connection can foster a sense of gratitude, grounding, and mindfulness, allowing us to be fully present in the moment and appreciate the wonders of the natural world.
So how can we make the best of the parks for our outdoor exercise sessions?
Plan your schedule wisely
When it comes to working out in hotter weather, timing is everything. The key is to avoid exercising during the peak heat hours, typically between 12pm and 4pm. Instead, aim for early morning or late afternoon sessions when the temperature is more tolerable. Not only will this make your workout more enjoyable, but it will also help prevent heat-related issues such as dehydration and heatstroke.
Dress for success
Choosing the right clothing can significantly impact your outdoor workout experience. Opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics that allow sweat to evaporate and keep you cool. Loose-fitting clothing can also promote better air circulation, preventing you from feeling suffocated by the heat. Don't forget to wear a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun's rays and invest in a good pair of trainers for maximum comfort and support.
Hydration is paramount, especially in warmer weather. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. Take a refillable water bottle with you to the park and sip on it regularly. If you're planning a longer session, consider bringing a sports drink that replenishes electrolytes lost through sweat too. Remember, staying hydrated not only keeps you cool but also aids in maintaining your energy levels and overall performance.
While parks are undoubtedly abundant in open spaces, they often have shaded areas that provide a welcome respite from the sun's sometimes-scorching rays. Look for trees, gazebos, or covered pavilions where you can take brief breaks during your workout. These shady spots offer a chance to cool down, catch your breath, and recharge before you resume your activities.
Use available equipment
One of the best things about parks is the array of features they can offer. Take advantage of the park's features to enhance your workout routine. If the park has a running or cycling track, use it for your cardio sessions. Many parks also have outdoor fitness stations or playgrounds with exercise equipment such as pull-up bars and balance beams. Incorporate these into your workout for added variety and challenges.
Try water-based activities
Who says you can't beat the heat while having a splash of fun? If the park has a lake, pond, or pool, consider incorporating water-based activities into your fitness routine. Go for a refreshing swim, try kayaking, or even engage in water aerobics. These activities not only help you cool down but also provide an excellent opportunity to work different muscle groups while having a blast.
Practice sun safety
When spending extended periods outdoors, protecting yourself from the sun's harmful rays is crucial. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF before heading to the park, and reapply it every couple of hours, especially if you're sweating. Wear a brimmed hat to shield your face, neck, and ears, and don't forget to protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses. Sunburns and long-term sun damage have no place in your outdoor fitness journey!
Join group activities
Working out alone can sometimes feel monotonous, particularly in the hot season. Check if your local park organises group fitness classes or activities. Whether it's yoga, boot camp, or a Zumba session, participating in group workouts not only adds a social element but also provides motivation and accountability. Plus, sweating it out together can make it far more enjoyable!
And finally, don’t forget to listen to your body
While pushing ourselves is a key part of a workout, it's equally vital to listen to our body's cues, especially in hot weather. Pay attention to signs of fatigue, dizziness, or lightheadedness, which may indicate heat exhaustion or dehydration. Take breaks when needed and never hesitate to seek shade or head indoors if you feel unwell. Prioritising your wellbeing is always the smart choice. And remember, just a relaxing and refreshing walk in the park would do the job.