The best ways to get fit this summer
Want to take advantage of the warm weather and get fit outdoors? These activities will not only have you feeling great, they’ll also give you an opportunity to enjoy Canada’s short (but beautiful) summer
The fitness benefits of surfing are endless. It helps develop upper and lower body strength, flexibility and balance, and constant paddling provides a great cardio workout. Not only that, but it provides you with a sense of peace.
Amanda Stanec, an assistant professor of physical education in the school of education at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., says surfing provides not only health-related physical fitness, but also many psychosocial benefits. “While people are improving their core strength, balance and muscular strength through paddling and riding waves, they’re also extremely focused on that next wave, the timing of catching the wave, and the joy of riding it.” It requires focus in the present moment-everything else has to fall away-similar to yoga, and other activities that provide many emotional and mental-health benefits.
“Cycling helps you develop fantastic lower body strength: your quadriceps, hamstrings and buttocks,” says Jenny Brown, a fitness trainer and women’s cycling coach at Reactivated in St. Catharines, Ont. “You develop toned muscles without bulk.” You also strengthen core muscles because you’re working on keeping balanced and upright, adds Patti Fletcher. a bike-shop owner and women’s cycling instructor in Comox, B.C.
Research published in 2008 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that study participants with depressive and anxiety disorders who cycled for 20 minutes reported decreased levels of anxiety, and those who picked the level of intensity they wanted to ride at reported an increase in well-being.
Swimming provides all-around fitness results, improving cardio, flexibility, tone and strength while exercising a variety of muscle groups. “Unlike dry-land exercises, swimming engages your entire body,” says Cory Beatt, who coaches Olympic hopefuls on the Simon Fraser University swim team. “With nothing to stabilize you in the water, you’re forced to use your core.”
It’s especially beneficial and safe if you have an injury or joint condition. “We recommend swimming to our clients,” says Toronto-based Mary Aisen, a physiotherapist with The Arthritis Society. “The first thing I ask clients is whether they can swim. Even if they can’t, just moving in the water helps.”
Follow a local hiking trail for a fun and free fitness activity. Want to see serious results? “Add sprint intervals” says Sara Celik, a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor and fitness trainer. “Go on a hike with friends and at random intervals yell out ‘Challenge!’ This is the signal for everyone to sprint for 45 seconds. Continue this throughout the hike,” says Celik, as it will burn more calories.
With frisbee‘s non-stop action, you burn lots of calories while building agility, cardio endurance and lower-body strength. “You’re running the length of a soccer field and laying out [diving] for the disc,” says Nancy Symons, captain of the all-women competitive Ultimate team Zephyr in Vancouver. “It’s quite a workout.”
It’s estimated that a 150-lb. person burns 340 calories per hour playing dodgeball. During a 55-minute game, you use every abdominal, leg and back muscle-some you didn’t even know you had-all while building stamina, relieving stress and getting a great cardio workout.
Also, “It’s great for physical conditioning and burning calories,” says Dean Kozak, program manager for the Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
This 1950s craze is no longer just child’s play. Hula-hooping, or “hooping,” has re-emerged as a great cardio workout to slim your waist, hips, buttocks and thighs while toning your abdominals and lower back muscles. Hooping can be done indoors or out, on your own or with a group in a class setting.
According to Sean Hayes, the official kinesiologist for the Canadian National Australian Rules Football team and the owner of Tuf Personal Fitness in Vancouver, B.C., soccer is a fantastic cross-training opportunity that has some mental benefits, too.
The aerobic fitness demands of soccer increase the ability of the heart to pump blood to the muscles and helps clear the build-up of plaque inside the arteries, which is a sign of cardiovascular disease,” he says. The benefits? You’ll enjoy a slower resting heart rate, a decrease in systolic blood pressure and a healthier working heart, Hayes says.