Alfresco fitness invites you to practise various fitness activities in the great outdoors — such as doing sun salutations by the beach or trekking through hidden nature trails. Plus, it’s the perfect remedy for “cabin fever” especially during this new normal. Introduce more joy and sunshine to your lifestyle with these fun outdoor exercise ideas and pick up a few tips on practising alfresco fitness safely, courtesy of specialists from Gleneagles Hospital.
How does exercising outdoors benefit us?
“Outdoor exercise has been shown to produce a greater improvement in mood and one’s sense of personal well-being compared to indoor exercise. Indeed, just five minutes in a park or nature trail has been shown to benefit one’s mental health,” revealed Dr Lingaraj Krishna, an orthopaedic surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital.
In addition, exposing yourself to sunlight while you’re exercising outdoors also helps to reduce your chances of getting an infection compared to staying in an air-conditioned environment, shared fellow orthopaedic surgeon Dr Yue Wai Mun. “Getting more sunlight exposure will allow our skin to produce more natural vitamin D. This helps our body absorb calcium better and gets the calcium into our bones better,” added Dr Yue.
Beyond participating in weekly Zoom workout sessions within the confines of your own home, consider giving yourself a solid sweat sesh in the great outdoors, AKA partaking in alfresco fitness to take better charge of your health and well-being.
Practise yoga by the waterfront
If you’ve grown tired of refining your downward-facing dog poses in your living room, a literal change of scenery might just refresh your senses and yoga routine for the better. With this, try practising yoga by a waterfront or reservoir to let your mind and body reap the relaxing, mood-lifting benefits of being in the presence of water. Matter of fact, research has proven that water also induces a meditative state to make you happier, healthier and more capable of awe.
Doctors’ safety tip: Never skip your warm-ups, no matter how “gentle” or “low-intensity” your exercises may seem. “Warm up before any activity as this helps you to ease in and out of each exercise session. It prepares your body for exercise by raising its temperature to increase blood flow to important muscles and organs. It also enhances the range of movement in joints, reduces muscle soreness and minimises the risk of injury,” shared Dr Dennis Ng, an orthopaedic specialist.
Groove to a dance workout in the park
Dance challenges aren’t reserved solely for TikTok. If you’re looking for a calorie-burning alternative to your weekly jogging sessions around your neighbourhood, consider visiting the park and make use of its spacious surroundings to work on a fun dance routine with your family. This activity doesn’t require prior training or experience and it helps to care for your heart health while improving your balance and coordination. No strict rules or tough moves; just feel-good movements to engage your body and mind.
Doctor’s safety tip: Exercise to your heart’s content! However, remember to seek professional help should you or a loved one experience a sports-related injury. Make a trip down to Gleneagles Hospital’s A&E 24-hour walk-in clinic to have it checked or do not hesitate to call their helpline for swift assistance. The average waiting time at the hospital’s Accidents & Emergency (A&E) takes only 30 minutes, so rest assured that you and your family are in safe, good and efficient hands.
Kayak in a lake
No yacht, no problem. Kayaking not only allows you to get closer to the beautiful wonders of nature but also gives your body a full workout. This low-impact activity is a suitable bonding exercise for parents with adolescent children, especially if everyone in the family is already comfortable and confident in their swimming skills and is open to exploring different types of water sports. Fun fact: Exposing your children to nature can help to increase their self-esteem and unleash their creativity as well.
Doctor’s safety tip: New to any form of exercise, even kayaking? Start gradually and let your body adjust to the unfamiliar movements before increasing the intensity. “This will help reduce the likelihood of injuries such as strains,” advised Dr Ng. “Commonly referred to as ‘pulling a muscle’, strains occur when there is tearing in the muscle fibres of our tendons, which usually happen with sudden or repetitive movements.”
Do the ‘sand shuffle’ by the beach
Heard of sand shuffling? It’s a heart-pumping, beach-ready workout move that requires you to move your body from side to side using your feet in between your quick runs. The best part of this alfresco fitness routine is how you get to bask in the warmth of the golden sun (serotonin boost, yes!) while enjoying the relaxing feeling of sand beneath your feet.
Doctor’s safety tip: Stay hydrated and always have a bottle of water on hand when you’re exercising outdoors. “This is very important especially if you’re under the sweltering heat as our bodies lose water easily. Our muscles become tense as we lose water during physical activities and this can then lead to muscle tension and cramps, and even potentially causing muscle sprains,” warned Dr Ng.
Hike through a nature trail
Tired of repeating the same HIIT workouts in your backyard? Try exploring the best of Mother Nature’s “backyard” by hiking through a nature trail instead, such as Kranji Marshes or Chestnut Nature Park. Before you dismiss this as an ordinary walk in the park, think again as hiking has been referred to as the “perfect mind-body workout.” Matter of fact, it challenges you to navigate through uneven terrain, which in turn, strengthens a lot of muscles in your body that you don’t normally use as well.
Furthermore, research has also shown that nature is a form of “positive distraction” to help you draw the focus away from negative, self-referential thoughts. This way, you’ll spend less time worrying, and more time appreciating the Earth’s greatest creations surrounding you.
Doctor’s safety tip: Always be prepared. Although the idea of enjoying alfresco fitness spontaneously sounds fun and exciting, you should always make adequate preparations before exercising outdoors.
“[Adequate preparation] includes finding out more about the terrain beforehand, namely the accessibility, difficulty and incline. This can help to prevent falls and injuries that arise from unfamiliarity with the terrain. One should also ensure that one has proper footwear and attire to match the terrain involved as well,” advised Dr Krishna.
Safety first, always
Ready to embark on your very own alfresco fitness experience this weekend? Don’t forget to prioritise your safety and be aware of your limits. If you’re ever unsure about your physical condition prior to commencing a new form of physical activity, consult a doctor. Don’t be afraid to seek medical help from an orthopaedic specialist too if you experience sudden and severe pain after playing sports. Have fun and stay safe!
Learn how you can take better care of your health — and your loved ones with Gleneagles Hospital here.