5 ways to get outside and active this winter…

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It’s National Obesity Awareness Week, a campaign encouraging the UK to join in a resolution to help improve the nation’s health.

Generally, we achieve weight loss because of a decrease in our calorific intake. However, evidence shows the best way to maintain your health is to be engaged in regular physical activity. And perhaps more importantly, being physically active reduces the risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease beyond that achieved by reducing your weight alone.

Whilst the majority of our activities are temporarily suspended due to the Covid-19 Lockdown, you can still get out in the great outdoors to get your daily dose of movement!

An obvious one, that can often be overlooked as a valuable form of exercise. It’s free, gets you from a to b (the local grocers perhaps) and is a great way to build core strength, lose weight and become generally healthier.

You don’t have to go on a full-on hike, but the key here is to make it brisk! An up-tempo, 10-minute walk a day has loads of health benefits, including increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness, improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol (reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke), and diabetes. It can be a great way to free up joint and muscular pain or stiffness, build stronger bones and improve your balance.

It also counts towards your 150 minutes of weekly exercise, as recommended by the NHS.

This one’s certainly a win-win situation – gardening can be a great form of exercise, and of course, you can couple it with growing fruits, vegetables and herbs to supplement a healthy (and very tasty) balanced diet.

Gardening is considered moderate-intensity exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can burn approx. 330 calories doing an hour of light gardening, which compares similarly with dancing (foxtrot, rumba, tap or Zumba™ – whichever is your thing). They also argue physical activity reduces risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes beyond that produced by weight reduction alone.

Gardening can, of course, be a solo activity, but it also provides a fantastic opportunity for connecting with family members, whilst perhaps discussing the importance of healthy eating, the beauty of that earthworm or whatever the latest family topic of conversation may be! It’s also said that early exposure to dirt has been linked to lasting health benefits, helping strengthen the immune system, protecting children from developing autoimmune diseases and asthma.

The wind in your face, the beautiful birdsong, the exploration of your local area and parkland – the benefits of cycling are seemingly as endless as the possible different routes you could be taking on your next adventure.

And we haven’t yet mentioned what it does for your physical fitness and weight loss.

“The simple equation, when it comes to weight loss, is ‘calories out must exceed calories in’. So, you need to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Cycling burns calories: between 400 and 1000 an hour, depending on intensity and rider weight…” argues Michelle Arthurs-Brennan of Cycling Weekly.

Check out their handy chart to estimate your potential calories burned cycling.

This can provide you with a real workout!

It can be done throughout the year and, in the winter months, will likely throw up a few welcome earthworms for your friendly neighbourhood robin (you’ll lose weight as the robin happily gains). Keep an eye out – the little red-breasted bird will flutter down to investigate the scene for much-needed morsels as you walk away. Always the first in the queue!

The RHS say that home composting is the most environmentally-friendly way of dealing with kitchen and garden waste, plus it can produce beautiful compost that can be used as an excellent soil improver. Take a look at their composting masterclass here.

As well as NHS guidance stating we should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity) a week, we are also advised to do strengthening activities that work all the major muscles on at least 2 days a week.

Yoga can achieve this aim. Using your bodyweight to perform the movements strengthens your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms. As well as the potential to work up a sweat, yoga has many health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, assisting weight loss and reducing anxiety and depression. Those who regularly practice say it also improves their mental focus. Something which can help in all aspects of life.

Get your layers on and take your mat outside for a refreshing stretch!

There are your five activities to improve health, without the gym!

The great outdoors is “great” for many reasons and using it to improve your health is just one. The key is to get started and find something that you enjoy.

Whether you have access to a garden with a compost heap or a balcony with enough space for a yoga mat, there are multitude benefits from breathing in fresh air and seeing the beauty of nature – all while doing an activity to keep fit.

If you’d like to get involved with The Conservation Volunteers or find out more about our work connecting people and green spaces, take a look here: https://www.tcv.org.uk/

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