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Get outdoors: Embrace open air fitness

Photographs: Pexels

Text: Alexandra Beck

Being an international, I know that the transition to a new country brings a wealth of exciting and sometimes overwhelming experiences and opportunities. Among these, integrating fitness into your new lifestyle can be both challenging and thrilling. Finding out where and what to do, who can help and how you can start.

And what better way to embrace your new surroundings than by taking your workouts outdoors? Outdoor exercise offers numerous benefits, from boosting physical health to enhancing mental well-being, and it provides a unique way to connect with both nature and the local community.

The health benefits of outdoor exercise

Exercising outdoors has a range of physical benefits that go beyond what indoor workouts can offer. The natural terrain provides a variety of challenges that can improve your balance, agility, and strength. Uneven surfaces, such as trails, parks and even concrete, engage different muscle groups compared to flat, predictable gym floors. This variety can help prevent overuse injuries and improve overall fitness.

Moreover, exposure to sunlight is crucial for vitamin D synthesis, which supports bone health and immune function. Even on a cloudy day, natural light can positively impact your circadian rhythms, leading to better sleep patterns and increased energy levels. The fresh air you breathe outdoors is typically less polluted than indoor air, contributing to improved respiratory health and overall vitality.

Mental and emotional well-being

The mental health benefits of exercising outdoors are equally compelling. Nature has a calming effect on the mind, reducing stress and anxiety levels. Studies have shown that spending time in green spaces can lower cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone. The sights, sounds, and smells of nature can also enhance your mood and cognitive function, making you feel more relaxed and focused.

Outdoor exercise can also combat feelings of isolation that expatriates sometimes experience. Joining a group workout class on a regular or even membership basis not only keeps you physically active but also helps you build a social network in your new home. The camaraderie and mutual support found in group fitness can foster a sense of belonging and community.

Exploring your surroundings

Outdoor fitness also offers a fantastic way to explore your new environment. It allows you to discover the natural beauty of your new town. This exploration can make you feel more connected to your surroundings and enhance your appreciation of the local culture and landscape.

In addition, participating in outdoor activities can lead to discovering hidden gems you might otherwise overlook. A morning jog could take you past historical landmarks, a group walk might introduce you to native flora and fauna, and a beach workout could reveal the best spots for a sunset view. These experiences enrich your expatriate life, making each workout an adventure.

Group workouts: Fitness and community

One of the best ways to enjoy outdoor exercise is through group workouts. These sessions combine the benefits of physical activity with the enjoyment of social interaction. Whether it’s a boot camp, a yoga class in the park, or a guided run, group workouts offer a structured yet fun way to stay fit.

As a fitness trainer, I’ve seen firsthand how group workouts create a supportive environment that encourages participants to push their limits and achieve their fitness goals. The shared experience of exercising outdoors, facing the elements together, and cheering each other on fosters a strong sense of camaraderie. For expatriates, this can be particularly valuable, providing a platform to meet like-minded individuals and form lasting friendships.

Getting started

If you’re new to outdoor exercise, start by exploring local parks, beaches, and trails. Look for community boards or online groups that organise outdoor fitness activities. I would recommend looking for a team that is led by an educated and experienced trainer, which may not be the most “low cost” but will definitely place great emphasis on safety, inclusivity and community.

Many fitness trainers, including myself, offer classes that cater to all levels of fitness. These sessions can be adapted to suit your pace and preferences, ensuring a safe and enjoyable workout. Plus, the social aspect makes it easier to stay motivated and committed to your fitness journey.

So, lace up your sneakers, step outside, and let the world be your gym. Join us for an outdoor workout and discover the joy of fitness in the great outdoors.

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