What’s So Great about the Out­doors? – 7 Rea­sons to Take it Out­side

What­ever your sport, says VERNE MA­REE, you’re gen­er­ally bet­ter off do­ing it out­doors. Apart from oc­ca­sional health haz­ards such as the pesky sand-flies on East Coast Park, the odd mon­i­tor lizard in early-morn­ing Macritchie Reser­voir Park, or a wild boar c

Expat Living (Singapore) - - Health & Fitness -

A 60-year-old friend of mine from South Africa, who now lives in Perth, goes for a proper freestyle swim ev­ery morn­ing of her life – in the sea. She’s guar­an­teed to find at least a cou­ple of oth­ers from her group, she told me, come win­ter, sum­mer, rain or shine. I’ve seen some­thing sim­i­lar in St Malo, Brit­tany, in the grey and blus­tery chill of win­ter – peo­ple ei­ther swim­ming back and forth, par­al­lel to the shore; or sim­ply strid­ing along the seabed and breast­ing the waves. Merde!

Open-wa­ter swim­ming is to a chlo­ri­nated and heated in­door pool what a trail run is to a tread­mill in an air-con­di­tioned gym. If you’ve be­come a gym-rat for some rea­son, be it your home coun­try’s ex­treme cli­mate (Canada and Siberia come to mind) or for rea­sons of per­sonal safety (South Africa, Brazil), Sin­ga­pore holds the op­por­tu­nity to change all that.

Once your body has ac­cli­ma­tised to the heat and hu­mid­ity – and I’ll ad­mit that it took me a whole year to get to that point – there’s a lot to be said for liv­ing in year-round sum­mer. Apart from the hor­ri­ble haze, there are few sur­prises from the weather man. We have only two sea­sons to con­tend with: hot and wet, and hot­ter and wet­ter; the mer­cury mostly hov­ers be­tween a high of 32 and a low of 26 de­grees Centi­grade; and we’re guar­an­teed 12 hours of day­light ev­ery day.

#1 Sun­shine

Fi­nally, af­ter mak­ing an en­tire gen­er­a­tion de­fi­cient in vi­ta­min D, the med­i­cal world is wak­ing up (again) to the life-sus­tain­ing ben­e­fits of mod­er­ate amounts of sun­shine on ex­posed skin. But: Never, ever get burnt. Wear a hat or a cap, mon­i­tor your ex­po­sure care­fully and use sun­screen. Hap­pily, stud­ies show that us­ing a screen with SPF15 not only gives you ef­fec­tive pro­tec­tion, but also al­lows your skin to pro­duce the vi­ta­min D your body needs.

#2 Fresh Air

Shown to im­prove di­ges­tion, blood pres­sure and the cleans­ing ac­tion of the lungs, fresh out­door air helps you think more clearly and lifts your mood. No one’s say­ing ditch the air-con­di­tion­ing – that would be un­re­al­is­tic – but un­healthy bac­te­ria are known to build up in air­con­di­tioned gyms and other rooms where the air is re­cy­cled. But: When the hor­ri­ble haze de­scends on Sin­ga­pore, there’s no real op­tion but the gym tread­mill or that ex­pen­sive sta­tion­ary bike that’s been gather­ing dust in a cor­ner of your apart­ment.

#3 Sweat

For­get glow­ing, or even per­spir­ing. We out­door run­ners sweat un­til our hair drips and our train­ers are soggy. Luck­ily, this is won­der­fully good for us. Not only is sweat­ing your per­sonal air-con sys­tem, it’s the best detox ever: it re­leases ex­cess salt, choles­terol and al­co­hol, plus all sorts of tox­ins, in­clud­ing heavy met­als and hor­mone-dis­rupt­ing plas­tic ad­di­tives such as bisphe­nol-a (BPA). But: Drink enough wa­ter. Not re­plac­ing ex­ces­sive sweat-loss can lead to harm­ful de­hy­dra­tion.

#4 Na­ture

Sim­ply be­ing sur­rounded by na­ture in­creases our sense of well­be­ing. This could be be­cause our an­ces­tors spent most of their time in out­door en­vi­ron­ments for thou­sands of years, so we have an in­nate af­fil­i­a­tion with na­ture. What’s more, ac­tu­ally ex­er­cis­ing out­doors is thought to have a syn­er­gis­tic ben­e­fit to health. There’s even a spe­cially coined term for this: “green ex­er­cise”. But: Try not to get struck by light­ning, and do watch out for wild boars. (Just a few weeks ago, se­ri­ously, I was al­most knocked over by an enor­mous, panic-stricken hog charg­ing down a sleepy Sele­tar street.)

#5 Va­ri­ety

With the whole of Sin­ga­pore as your play­ground, you need never be bored. In­stead of head­ing for the same four walls, join a yoga or tai chi class on the beach, do a boot camp in Fort Can­ning Park, walk or run in Macritchie’s nat­u­ral for­est. A friend of mine leads a Fri­day morn­ing yoga class un­der shady casuarina pines on the East Coast, with plenty of room to stretch out, dap­pled sun­light and the sound of the sea. It’s heav­enly.

#6 Flex­i­bil­ity

I know a yoga teacher who goes out for her run at 10pm, once the kids are in bed and the heat of the day has dis­si­pated. No, that’s not my style ei­ther – but it goes to show how safe Sin­ga­pore is, and how you don’t have to be con­strained by gym open­ing hours, class times or any­one else’s rou­tine.

#7 Sav­ings

Out­door ex­er­cise can be as cheap as you choose, or even free: it costs you noth­ing to lace up your train­ers and head out­doors. The price of real es­tate in Sin­ga­pore makes gym mem­ber­ship ex­pen­sive, so it’s no won­der that we’re see­ing fit­ness groups pop­ping up in the var­i­ous parks – all you’re pay­ing for is the in­struc­tor’s time. Just think: the busi­ness model of a gym de­pends on the ma­jor­ity of its mem­bers stay­ing away most of the time. A re­cent US study showed that 67 per­cent of peo­ple with gym mem­ber­ships never used them! But: Shy souls might cringe at the idea of be­ing gaw­ped at. Just get over it, I say – we come in all shapes and sizes, and those ran­dom passers-by are al­most cer­tainly ap­plaud­ing your ef­forts.

• Strong bones and teeth • Healthy im­mune sys­tem • Weight con­trol • Op­ti­mal blood pres­sure • Sero­tonin for mood en­hance­ment • Bet­ter, deeper sleep • Pre­vent­ing cancer • Heal­ing skin con­di­tions

MAY 2017

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