Swimsuit season is here and the pressure to go sleeveless is rising faster than record high temperatures.
So what can the average American, who does not have a personal trainer on standby or daily healthy meals cooked by a professional chef, do to get toned arms and a tighter midriff section?
The answer: Take it outdoors for some fun and free summer activities that will have you burning calories just in time for bikini season.
Here are eight workout ideas to do on your own or with the entire family.
1. Go Off-Road
A great way to escape the hectic city life and reduce stress is to hike in nature. The right pair of shoes is critical. For trail walking, specially designed trail-walking shoes or even running shoes may suffice. Today’s hiking boots come in lightweight varieties and keep your feet dry. The right fit is key to avoid blisters or chafing. Bring along some water and a snack for shorter hikes. Drink at least 7-10 ounces of water every 20 minutes, even in colder climates, to avoid dehydration. Insect repellant and sunscreen are also essential. Finally, pace yourself to enjoy nature. Build endurance and strength gradually before tackling some hills or a more challenging terrain. For safety: Stick to the trails, avoid brushing against foliage and hiking alone or in the dark. Also see our video Injury Prevention for Hikers in our Summer Series of Yoga.
2. Ride Your Bicycle
There is no better way to explore your neighborhood, city, backcountry roads or local trails than from the vantage point of a bicycle. And that is just one side-effect. Bicycling is a great cardiovascular workout and will strengthen legs, glutes and core.
A 140-lb individual who bicycles at 10 miles per hour for an hour will burn nearly 400 calories, which makes for guilt-free eating of a 6-inch Double Roast Beef Sub sandwich.
Bike longer and you can burn enough calories to eat a sandwich, and have your cake too.
For safety: Always wear a helmet, obey all traffic laws, use hand signals and use lights when biking at dusk and dawn.
For comfort: Invest in a pair of padded biking shorts (your bike seat will feel much better), a cycling jersey with pockets to store keys, snacks and a pair of gloves.
Consult the experts at a bike store to evaluate which type of bicycle is right for you.
Be sure to watch our Summer Series of Yoga for a video on Hip Openers for Cyclists!
3. Jog Around the Block
The beauty about jogging or running is that you can do it any time, anywhere. Keep your running shoes in your duffel bag, at work, in your suitcase or near the door, and you’re always ready to explore the great outdoors. Even short bouts of jogging or running benefit your heart health, clear your head and calm your senses. For those running in unfamiliar places, running up staircases, around tall buildings or a stadium still makes for a great workout. Running is great for busy professionals, because you can always make time to sneak in a quick run, even during travel. Simply ask the hotel concierge for a map of the city, a nearby park or trails and you’re on your way.
To prevent running injuries, invest in a good pair of running shoes and rotate them out about every 300-400 miles. The experts at the running store are trained to customize your fit.
4. Jump Rope
Jumping rope is not only a great heart-pumping activity, but also increases body awareness. All you need to get started are some comfortable shoes, preferably aerobic shoes or cross-trainers that have a reinforced toe and cushioning for the balls of the feet. Choose a light-weight rope with foam grips that won’t slip away when palms get sweaty. The right length rope is one that reaches about chest high and is measured by stepping the foot on the center of the rope while bringing the handles up to the chest.
Now all that’s left is to challenge each family member to a jumping rope contest while keeping it fun.
5. Get Wet
Swimming laps offers a great full-body workout. But even splashing around in the pool can be a great workout for young and old alike.
The buoyancy of water reduces the “weight” of a person by about 90 percent, which means less stress on joints, bones and muscles. Many people enjoy working out against the resistance of water while benefiting from its cooling effect on the body.
Here are some workout ideas: Cup your hands and pull water away from you to build strength. Use a noodle, hand-held paddles or a kick board. For those wanting to enjoy a group workout, consult your health club or YMCA about aquatic classes or master’s programs for swimming laps and don’t forget to wear sunscreen when swimming outdoors.
See our video in the Summer Series of Yoga for Stretches for Swimmers.
6. Inline Skate
Inline skating around the neighborhood or even a pick-up game of hockey make for great family fun and a workout. Most children love the idea. To prevent injuries, it is critical that adults and especially children wear helmets and protective gear on their wrists, knees and elbows. It may not look ‘cool,’ but can make the difference between a serious head injury or trauma and a minor injury or broken bones, so always be safe.
7. Just Dance
You don’t have to be Lady Gaga to “Just Dance.”
Next time you’re at a summer party, dance for fun and fitness: A 120-pound person who dances socially can burn almost 3 calories per minute or equals approximately 180 calories per hour, which is roughly the same amount of calories as a Bloody Mary. A 180-pound person dancing for an hour can burn over 750 calories, the equivalent of two slices of a pan crust cheese pizza.
Encouraging children to be creative and move their bodies freely is fun and great for their mind and body. Teach your kids some new moves in your garden, the park or at the beach.
8. Calm The Mind
For those wanting to calm the mind, rolling out a yoga mat in nature for downward-facing dog positions and sun salutations may be the ideal stress-reliever during these tough economic times. Many yoga studios are also taking their workouts outdoors. When life gets tough, slowing the mind without any distractions can make for a spiritual recovery.
Whatever outdoor activity gets you off the couch and into nature, remember to stay safe, hydrated and to protect your skin with sunscreen.
Given the continued trend of rising obesity and overweight rates among American adults and children, why not make a change in your life? Regular exercise, better eating habits will change how you feel from within while others notice the slimmer, fitter you on the outside.
For additional workout ideas and step-by-step demonstrations on safe and effective exercise techniques, visit the online exercise library available on the American Council on Exercise website.
Marion Webb is the managing editor for the American Council on Exercise and an ACE-certified Personal Trainer. For specific fitness-related story ideas or comments, please e-mail her directly at email@example.com.