By: Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Exercising outdoors is a great way to get active and save money on traditional fitness methods. Better yet, it reduces stress, improves mood and boosts self-esteem. Those who choose to exercise outdoors tend to work out longer and more frequently, which may be a result of the vibrant colors and overall atmosphere that makes exercise feel easier. To reap the many physical and mental benefits of getting active outdoors, safety should always be top of mind.
Be Smart in the Sun
Exercising during peak hours of the day can lead to sun poisoning, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. By planning a workout around dusk or dawn, individuals can lower the risk of sun-related illness and injury. Another trick is to seek out trails, parks or other shady locations to exercise. Even on cloudy days, applying water resistant sunscreen with 30 to 50 SPF is crucial, along with sporting eyewear with 100 percent UV protection.
Wearing breathable, lightweight clothing while exercising outdoors can help prevent several negative effects of the sun and heat. Look for mesh materials, light-colored articles instead of dark and layered clothing. A brimmed hat and/or protective sunglasses are also important accessories to consider for comfort and safety during an outdoor workout.
Fuel Up Properly
The ideal pre-workout meal should include easily-digestible foods and fluids. Healthy carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat yogurt are great options. Steering clear of heavy and rich fats like cheese, butter or processed sugars can help prevent bloating, cramping or burnout during a workout. In addition to this, individuals should aim to consume between 17 and 20 ounces of water in the hours leading up to a workout.
Have a Plan
Anyone planning to exercise outdoors alone should ensure a family member, friend or neighbor knows their location. Exercising in unfamiliar areas can increase the risk of getting lost or feeling unsafe, so it’s best to plan a route beforehand and have a phone handy in case of emergency. Take time to research public parks, trails and outdoor recreation facilities throughout Michigan that offer opportunities to get active throughout the year. Better yet, exercise with a buddy for safety and accountability.
Drinking water during a workout helps the body perform at its best while avoiding dehydration, dizziness and fatigue. High temperatures and increased sweating heighten the risk for dehydration, so monitoring water intake while exercising outdoors is especially important. In general, individuals should aim to drink at least eight ounces every 15 minutes during a workout. Reaching for hydrating foods such as berries, celery, cucumbers or watermelon before and after a workout also helps fuel and rehydrate the body.
Grace Derocha is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips, visit AHealthierMichigan.org.