The Great (Healthy) Out­doors

Fresh ways to get a mind-body boost

Prevention (USA) - - CONTENTS - BY A.C. SHILTON

Hu­mans aren’t meant to spend their lives in cu­bi­cles, cars, and deep, soft arm­chairs. We’re pro­grammed to thrive in na­ture, says Har­vard Med­i­cal School’s John Ratey, M.D., au­thor of Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind From the Af­flic­tions of Civ­i­liza­tion. Time out­side—es­pe­cially when you’re in mo­tion—ups your mood, sharp­ens your think­ing, and makes you feel calmer and even more gen­er­ous. So take ad­van­tage of sum­mer with these lit­tle ad­ven­tures. Do them all or repeat your faves as of­ten as you want. All that mat­ters is that you get out­doors and love it!

1 EN­JOY YOUR COF­FEE OUT­SIDE

We don’t mean you should glug it down while dash­ing from the house to the car. Sit and sip in the early-morn­ing sun­light and see how good it makes you feel. Din­ing out­doors may even re­duce lev­els of the stress hor­mone cortisol, says clin­i­cal ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist Paul In­nerd, Ph.D., of the Univer­sity of Sun­der­land in the U.K.

2 GET HIK­ING

Some of the world’s most beau­ti­ful places are ac­ces­si­ble only on foot, and fol­low­ing a trail to get some­where can be ab­sorb­ing, inspiring, and hum­bling. Go to a trail and set out on any­thing from a 30-minute walk to a solid half-day hike. You can find a foot­path in a nearby lo­cal, state, or na­tional park via the Amer­i­can Hik­ing So­ci­ety’s “Hikes Near You” tool on its site (amer­i­can­hik­ing.org).

3 KICK OFF YOUR KICKS

Walk­ing bare­foot has real health ben­e­fits. “With­out the sup­port of shoes, the mus­cles of your feet have to work harder, which makes them stronger,” says Irene Davis, Ph.D., a pro­fes­sor at Har­vard Med­i­cal School’s De­part­ment of Phys­i­cal Medicine and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.That can mean fewer prob­lems (like plan­tar fasci­itis) down the road. Plus, your feet are full of nerves, so strolling through soft grass or on a sandy beach is a real treat.

4 HAVE A WALK­ING MEET­ING

Ditch the con­fer­ence room, and you might get more done, sug­gests Anita Sanchez, Ph.D., a con­sul­tant and ex­ec­u­tive coach in Boulder, CO. Not only do walk­ing meet­ings get your en­ergy up, but step­ping out side by side with your co­work­ers cre­ates a sense of equal­ity (no­body’s at the head of the table) that may help re­solve prob­lems bet­ter, she says.

5 WIND THROUGH A LABYRINTH

Do what the an­cient Vik­ings did and walk a labyrinth, an elab­o­rate, twist­ing path used for self-re­flec­tion and med­i­ta­tion. No idea where to find one? Visit labyrinth lo­ca­tor.com to dis­cover your near­est op­tion or sim­ply walk a swirling path in your yard or a park.

6 DO A 7-MINUTE WORK­OUT OUT­DOORS

You don’t need fancy equip­ment or even a lot of time to squeeze in a great work­out. Just go out­side and find some­thing sturdy to step up on, like a bench. Then do seven min­utes’ worth of ex­er­cise. Yes, that’s it! Sci­en­tists have found that this amount of in­tense ex­er­cise can do as much good as a longer car­dio session plus a work­out with weights. Check out the John­son & John­son Of­fi­cial 7 Minute Work­out app for some moves, or just do stuff like jump­ing jacks, planks, step-ups, and squats. Aim for seven to 12 ex­er­cises; do each for 30 se­conds and rest for 10 se­conds be­fore the next.

7 GO ON AN UR­BAN SA­FARI

Think your neigh­bor­hood lacks wildlife?Take a pause and re­ally pay at­ten­tion. Chal­lenge your­self to find three wild crit­ters—whether they’re big, small, rare, or com­mon— on your next walk. These tips from Gavin Van Horn, coed­i­tor of City Crea­tures: An­i­mal En­coun­ters in the Chicago Wilder­ness, can help:

• Go to water sources, even ones that are hu­man-made.

• Head out early. That’s when the wild things rule.

• You’ll see more if you move with stealth.

• Don’t over­look the mun­dane:

Even squir­rels are pretty charis­matic!

8 STROLL YOUR NEAR­EST CITY

When you want to get to know a place, hoof it on a walk­ing tour—check TripAd­vi­sor to find opin­ions on the best lo­cal spots.The slower pace lets you take in de­tails you’d miss in a car. Ex­tra-fun: themed walk­ing tours like ar­chi­tec­tural high­lights, ghost tours, or routes that hit the best gar­dens.

9 USE WAIT TIME FOR GOOD

Sneak in some body-ton­ing moves while the grill heats up. Do in­clined push-ups against the deck rail­ing and tri­ceps dips off a sturdy bench, throw in some squats and lunges, and be­fore you know it, din­ner will be ready!

10 PLANT SOME­THING

Gar­den­ers have more to grin about than the size of their to­ma­toes. Peo­ple who get their hands in dirt are gen­er­ally hap­pier and health­ier, says a 2015 study in the Jour­nal of Pub­lic Health. (At play may be a mi­crobe in soil that some sci­en­tists think acts as an an­tide­pres­sant—talk about brain health!) Tap into the power of dirt even with­out a yard: Plant a con­tainer herb gar­den on a pa­tio or in a win­dow box. You’ll reap the ben­e­fits as well as the joy of sprin­kling your crop on ev­ery­thing you eat.

11 PULL OVER!

On a road trip, un­mold your butt from that car seat at a scenic over­look and take a cou­ple of min­utes to stretch.To tar­get spots that get trou­bled by driv­ing, try these two sim­ple moves:

• Stretch your calves by plac­ing your toes against a curb, heel on the street.

• Find a lamp­post and place your right el­bow and fore­arm against it (el­bow bent at 90 de­grees, fin­ger­tips point­ing up). Lean for­ward to open your chest. Repeat on the other side.

12 PLAN A NEW AD­VEN­TURE

Big ex­pe­ri­ences have merit, es­pe­cially when they’re things you don’t usu­ally do, like rafting and horse­back rid­ing. Learn­ing keeps you sharp, and con­quer­ing chal­lenges can give you rock­star con­fi­dence. Amer­ica’s pub­lic lands make the per­fect set­ting for a re­ward­ing jour­ney, so con­sider in­vest­ing in an Amer­ica the Beau­ti­ful Pass. Just $80 gets you ac­cess to more than 2,000 recre­ation spots across the U.S.

13 HAVE A MID­DAY EN­ERGY BREAK

Keep an af­ter­noon crash away with a 15-minute lunchtime walk. One study found that this is all it takes to have bet­ter con­cen­tra­tion and less fa­tigue through­out the work­day. Bonus move: Climb ev­ery set of stairs you see.

15 CEL­E­BRATE THE FULL MOON WITH A NIGHT HIKE

The night­time sound­scape and the views of the stars can make the walk mem­o­rable. Look for ex­pert-guided night hikes through noted na­ture spots in your area. Ner­vous about stum­bling around? Bring a flash­light with a red fil­ter or tis­sue pa­per over it so you can nav­i­gate around roots and ruts while pre­serv­ing your night vi­sion.

14 TAKE YOUR DOWN­WARD DOG OUT TO THE YARD

With Sun Sa­lu­ta­tions, you’re lit­er­ally sa­lut­ing the sun. But the sun can’t see you in that yoga stu­dio. Un­roll your mat on the grass and try this: Stand, take a few deep breaths, then move to Cat/Cow. Push back into Down­ward Dog. Lower into a high plank. Step into a lunge, stand up, and repeat.

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