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By Letshego Zulu


Make exercise more pleasurable by going outside 

Time spent outside is good for you. Let’s take a look at a few fun outdoor activities and exercise ideas that can improve your health.

Outdoor exercise has a stronger effect on blood pressure and mood than indoor exercise. Stress is relieved within minutes of exposure to nature as measured by muscle tension, blood pressure, and brain activity.

To put it simply, time spent outside is good for you. Let’s take a look at a few fun outdoor activities that can improve your health.


Cycling | Photo: iStock

Cycling has plenty of benefits for both the mind and body. To start, it’s a great lower body workout that works your quads, hamstrings and calves. It’ll also help you get your cardio in, and therefore improve your cardiovascular health.

Plus, it’s non-weight-bearing, which makes it a good option for people dealing with joint pain or injury. Pedalling while maintaining balance and steering also improves your coordination.

A bike ride is great for your mental health too. Cycling can relieve stress and boost mood, plus it’s a great opportunity to bond with your friends and family.


Swimming is another great low-impact exercise, which means it allows people recovering from injury to stay fit without straining their bodies.

The water also provides resistance, which increases muscle strength and tone as you swim. Lastly, swimming stretches your muscles and increases flexibility. It also helps you relax  and destress.

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Picture: iStock

Floating in the water dulls the sensory information that can be overwhelming, creating feelings of calm.

The rhythmic movements and breathing can also provide meditative benefits. Next time you backstroke, butterfly, or front crawl, think about all of the amazing health benefits you’re getting.


Hiking can be a peaceful walk in the park, or a heart-pounding workout. Hiking tones your lower body, and upper body if you use poles.

It’s great cardio to keep your heart healthy, and boosts bone density as a weight-bearing exercise.

RELATED: Pilates vs Cardio: Which one is best for fat-burning and weight-loss?

Hiking can improve creative thinking and problem solving. As you make your way down the trail, you’ll hear nature sounds like birds and rushing water.

These sounds are proven to have a calming effect. Hit the trails today, and see the health benefits of hiking for yourself!


Seeking some peace and stability, while enjoying the fresh air? Outdoor yoga could be for you. The combination mind-body workout of yoga pairs perfectly with the all over health benefits of time spent outdoors.

Feel your worries melt away as you breathe in the fresh air, and focus on your wellness. Contact with nature has been found to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, help mitigate disease, and reduce stress levels.

yoga outside for exercise
yoga retreat on the beach at sunset, silhouettes of group of people meditating | Picture: iStock


Lovers of canoeing often say the biggest draw is the peace and serenity on the water. Research shows that it has benefits for physical and mental health.

It works your upper body, increasing muscle strength in the back, arms, shoulders and chest. It also works your core strength, and leg strength for kayakers. Canoeing is low-impact, meaning there’s a smaller risk of injury or strain. It elevates your heart rate, and improves cardiovascular health. Being out on the water has a calming effect on the brain, and can help lower stress levels.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking involves riding offroad, usually on dirt trails. It started as a recreational activity for cyclists to explore the outdoors and enjoy competitions with friends or family.

However, it has developed into a serious sport that attracts enthusiasts from all over the world. 

There are many different types of mountain bikes, including downhill, gravel and cross country.

Mountain biking is a great way to enjoy the fresh air while also getting some exercise.

While most other sports require high energy, that’s not always the case with biking. Mountain bikes can be used on almost any terrain.

READ NEXT: How to avoid a workout ‘hangover’

Co-written with Thapelo Mowela

Zulu is a qualified biokineticist and cofounder of PopUpGym.

Follow her on Instagram: @letshego.zulu; Twitter: @letshegom; Facebook: Letshego Zulu

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