Living Well: Getting your heart rate up with fun outdoor activities
The classic times of the year when people start thinking more about diet and exercise are the New Year and summertime. Thankfully, summer in Colorado includes a myriad of outdoor activities that get your heartbeat up, all while including a healthy dose of fun.
More than 70 percent of adults over the age of 20 in America are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Moffat County, about 24 percent of adults are obese, higher than the state’s obestiy rate of 20 percent.
Ericka Lucas, PT, DPT, physical therapy manager at Memorial Regional Health, said the key to incorporating fitness into your lifestyle more regularly is to find something that makes it interesting for you personally.
“Being outside to exercise offers the benefit of vitamin D from sunlight, and fresh air is energizing,” she said.
With so many beautiful spots for recreation in the area — Lucas’s favorites are Loudy Simpson Park, Sand Rocks, Black Mountain and Cedar Mountain — there are plenty of things to do outside.
Hiking or walking on uneven surfaces and at various inclines is helpful for challenging balance and strength, while walking in general is a great way to elevate the heart rate, Lucas said.
“Walk with a friend, walk in a park, listen to music or a podcast. To increase the heart rate, try walking in intervals where you alternate walking at moderate and higher paces — this helps time pass faster, as well,” she said. “Biking can be great for working on balance and cardiovascular health.”
Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain, and combined with healthy nutrition, it can help maintain weight loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, don’t stress if you can’t find a large chunk of time to get to the gym every day — “any amount of activity is better than none at all.”
Regular exercise also helps combat health problems such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes, depression, many types of cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis and more. The Mayo Clinic reports that exercise can also improve cognitive function, lower the risk of death from all causes, boost energy, improve mood and promote better sleep, among other benefits.
Set summertime goals
Lucas recommends that anyone looking to get into better shape this summer should set specific goals to work toward.
“Have an accountability partner,” she said. “Get creative in mixing up types of exercise and locations to stay interested.”
Anyone embarking on a new fitness routine or incorporating more activities into a previously sedentary lifestyle should always talk to their healthcare provider first. Starting a new routine can be great for long-term health, but going about it too quickly can have negative consequences.
“Be sure to start gradually as to avoid injury, and pay attention to your what your body tells you after each time you exercise,” Lucas said. “Don’t forget hydration and stretching are an important part of reaching your goals.”