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Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She is frequently lost in a good book when she is not writing about how technology impacts our everyday health and wellness.
Working up a sweat with your family is a great way to bond while getting in shape. Your kids will fondly remember working out together in years to come, and your partner will appreciate your effort to get everyone involved in an activity together.
However, working out in a gym can get stale quickly. Young children may not even be allowed to use many of the machines, and teens will get bored of pedaling on stationary bikes. This can turn your time in the gym into a nightmare if you’re a busy parent and want to get a workout in yourself.
Instead, take your family outdoors for fitness-building recreational activities like cycling, swimming, hiking, and camping. These activities stimulate your kid’s mind while strengthening the body and are sure to enhance your family bonds.
Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
Most children find outdoor recreation far more fun than working out in an air-conditioned gym. There’s plenty to stimulate them while working up a sweat in the great outdoors, and they’ll be able to run around and get lost in the woods while exploring the wilderness. Spending time outdoors brings health benefits, too:
- Improved Immune System: Exposing your immune system to safe microorganisms builds the strength of your immune response and helps you bounce back quicker when faced with more serious illnesses.
- Improved Sleep: Sunlight exposure can help you feel tired at night and increase the quality of your rest. This is particularly handy if you struggle to corral your kids around bedtime.
- Depression: Time in the great outdoors can help you manage symptoms of depression. Sunlight exposure can also increase the amount of vitamin D in your body, which helps fight off seasonal affective disorder.
- Emotional Well-being: Time outdoors can help you and your kids deal with life’s challenges. Exploring greenspaces has a restorative effect on your mental health and helps you become more optimistic, too.
Working up a sweat in the great outdoors can boost your mental health, improve your fitness, and give your whole family a more positive outlook. Spending time together in the wilderness can give you all a welcome break from the tensions that naturally arise when you’re all cooped up at home. However, before you pack your bags or break out the bikes, you need to be aware of common health issues you may face.
Preventing Common Health Issues
Staying safe while enjoying outdoor fitness adventures is all about taking preventative measures. You can’t afford to be caught out when you’re miles away from home and shouldn’t have to fret about punctured tires or bug bites. Get ahead of potential challenges and protect your family’s health in the great outdoors by:
- Knowing Your Ability: Skiing down a challenging slope or surfing on big waves can be exhilarating. However, if you aren’t experienced, taking on these kinds of feats is sure to result in injury. Start with safer challenges and build your skills over time.
- Researching: Before you leave, you need a clear idea of where you’re going, the weather you expect to encounter, and the conditions you’ll face. This keeps you safe in an emergency and helps you sidestep risks like storms and heavy snowfall.
- Using Sun Protection: Moderate sun exposure is good for your health. However, sunstroke and burns can make you feel ill and cause UV damage. Pack wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and plenty of sunscreen for the whole family.
- Using Bug Protection: Ticks, mosquitos, and wasps pose a real threat to your family’s health. Fight off bugs and avoid conditions like Lyme disease by covering exposed skin and applying bug spray.
These preventative measures keep your family safe from common health challenges when exploring the woods and wilderness. However, you’ll still need to make activity-specific accommodations if you want to build your fitness and preserve your health while exercising outdoors.
Cycling is one of the best ways to work up a sweat while enjoying outdoor recreation. You can push yourself hard while on two wheels and build serious strength while climbing hills and negotiating steep declines. However, if you want to keep your family safe while on the road, you need to ensure they’re aware of the rules of the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises all cyclists to wear helmets and increase visibility while riding a bike. This means you should invest in helmets that fit correctly, emit light, and feature reflective strips. Double-check your family’s bikes for faults before you set off, too, as falls are the second-most common cause of accidents while on two-wheels.
Practice defensive cycling when on your bikes. Don’t assume that cars will yield for you, and avoid distractions like texting while cycling or listening to music. When on the road, be aware that you may encounter drivers who dislike cyclists and fail to drive safely around them.
Minimize the risk of conflict with drivers while cycling by staying in your lane and using clear hand signals before you move. Wear bright colors to ensure you’re seen and remain calm when encountering road rage. Pull your family over if you think a car is driving aggressively around you, and take off again when the road is clear.
Camping and Hiking
Hiking into the backcountry is a great way to strengthen your connection and escape modernity’s stress and strain. However, many would-be outdoors-people overestimate their capabilities and end up in trouble.
Minimize the risk of accidents while exploring the woods and wilderness by pre-planning routes that suit your family’s experience and fitness level. Don’t force young children to hike on difficult trails, and keep plenty of snacks on hand if they suddenly run out of steam. Create a camping pack checklist as a family to highlight the importance of bug spray and a first aid kit.
Check your kids’ packs before you head out, too. You need to make sure they are packed to dress seasonally for the outdoors. This means they need plenty of lightweight layers in the spring and fall and should be equipped with hats and sunglasses in the summer. Getting your kids the right clothes is essential if you want to avoid issues caused by wind chill, sudden downpours, or scorching heat.
Exercising outdoors is a great way to bring your family together and build your fitness. Common activities like cycling and camping are stimulating for kids of all ages, too. Just be sure to prioritize safety by researching your route, dressing for the weather, and packing plenty of snacks to keep morale high.
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