The human body is designed to do incredible things. In the wild we would have been specialists in tracking prey over huge distances, and so our body is almost perfectly designed for travelling large distances on foot and consuming minimal energy while doing so. On top of this we would have been supremely agile – able to easily traverse routes and branches with ease, and scurry up trees like squirrels. We could throw spears with enough force to kill large mammals, and we would survive without shelter, medicine or any of today’s ‘creature comforts’.
For the most part though we’ve stopped living this way and instead we’ve become soft. Now we spend most of our time indoors sitting in front of a computer and getting little if any exercise at all.
Occasionally then, when we do exercise, it will be for short bursts of incredibly intense exertion. This will tend to involve heaving heavy weights in an enclosed space for hours at a time, or sprinting around outdoors and kicking/throwing a ball at each other. So it really isn’t any wonder that end up hurting ourselves often and over doing it.
There is another way though. Rather than spending no time outdoors and no time exercising only to then completely throw yourself into an intense burst of exertion, why not instead try using a more gentle form of exercise that gets you outside and that mimics the kinds of movements that you were designed for?
Read on and we’ll take a look at some of the ways you can exercise in the fresh air without worrying about breaking your leg or twisting your ankle…
Essentially what we’re going to do is to turn an outdoors area into a fitness circuit that you can run through gently and use to exercise without placing too much strain on yourself. Simply jogging through woodland or other open expanses will help you to improve your fitness and your muscle tone more effectively than doing the same thing on a treadmill or elsewhere because the muscles in your legs and feet will be forced to deal with the uneven nature of the ground underneath you. Jog carefully on this kind of surface then and you can immediately start getting a better and more natural workout.
To get even more from this you should look into wearing shoes like the Five Fingers from Vibram. These will allow your feet to move more freely as though in gloves, and in turn that will provide more calorie burning (because more muscles are involved) and will reduce your chances of injury (because your foot is naturally designed to match the contours of these environments and to absorb impacts). This can greatly help you to avoid an unscheduled course of physical therapy.
In between your light jogs, you’re next going to stop off at various stations you can use to exercise different parts of your body. For instance you can pause at a tree branch and use it for pull ups, you can stop by a log and try pressing it off the ground, or you can do step-ups onto a jutting rock.
And you don’t need to come across anything handy like this to start working out at a station either – you can try crawling forward on all fours while suspending yourself off the ground, or walking while lunging for instance to get a workout anywhere.
All these kinds of exercises will let you train in a more natural setting which is a) what your body is designed for, b) a great way to get your fresh air and vitamin D intake and c) a much cheaper and more uplifting way to workout than getting sweaty in a gym.
And if you don’t live near a big open park where you can try training like this? Or if you’re just self conscious to be seen bench pressing logs in public? Then try turning your garden into a space that you can enjoy this kind of training in. You won’t be sorry you did!
The author of this post, Annie Thickie, is a part of the team at Cheshire Fitness Zone, a company that provides pediatric occupational therapy in CT. She keeps herself busy during the weekends by spending time with her three sons.