This spring, I’ve been reporting a lot about the different ways to reduce your “sitting time” and increase your activity throughout the day.
NONE of them involve logging lots of hours lifting weights or running on the treadmill.
In fact, as I’ll explain today, seven of the very BEST exercises for your health don’t require a gym membership…or even any equipment…at all.
Even better? You can do them just about anywhere!
Let’s jump right in…
Natural movements are always better
As I often report, science shows getting 140 to 150 minutes of physical activity a week is the optimal amount for increased health and longevity.
But, remember, the human body isn’t designed to run long distances on hard, artificial surfaces.
Nor does it make much sense to engage in repetitive weight-lifting exercises on complex machines that stress out your joints.
In fact, according to Erwan LeCorre, the leader of the “natural movement” (or “MoveNat”) trend, “the machines and the weights [at indoor gyms] are set up like a manufacturing plant. Then people go to work with machines that don’t allow any freedom of movement…it’s a travesty of fitness. This has nothing to do with the way humans are built to move.”
LeCorre says most of the BEST exercises for your body don’t involve any equipment at all. Instead, they encourage you to move freely and naturally in unstructured, outdoor environments. And I quite agree.
Here are seven healthy activities you can do outside in Nature…
1.Actively sit and stretch. For this exercise, try sitting outside on the ground without a chair. Find a comfortable position in the grass and start doing some gentle stretching exercises, yoga, or even meditation.
You can even perform productive activities while sitting on the ground, too—such as weeding or planting spring bulbs. These activities count toward your weekly exercise total—as I disclose in the March 2022 issue of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter.
Granted, for many older people, just the act of getting down onto the ground and back up again without assistance poses a challenge to mobility, balance, and muscle strength.
So, you can always start inside, with your back against an upholstered piece of furniture. That way, you’ll have some support while sitting and when you’re getting up again. Then, once you feel you’ve developed the strength to sit down and get back up indoors…try taking it outdoors!
2. Feel the earth between your toes. As I explained last week, walking is one of the most underrated of all physical exercises. But you don’t need to log 10,000 steps a day—as many people commonly think—to reap its benefits. And you may not even need to wear shoes!
Walking barefoot on grass, soil, or sand is called “earthing.” This helps connect the body and spirit with geo-energetic sources. It can also help with your balance and coordination, as wearing footwear reduces the sensory input from the feet to the rest of the body.
3. Try out the tree pose. Working on your balance is another great activity for older adults. And you can do it just about anywhere in the great outdoors.
For example, when standing outside in your backyard, simply lift one foot gently off the ground and see how long you can hold it. You can then move into the tree pose in yoga (vrksasana), if you have enough room and feel steady. (To be extra cautious, try this activity beside an actual tree or object that can offer support when needed.)
4. Carry a big load. Carrying heavy objects out in Nature, or even just in and around the house, does wonders for your core strength. It puts an extra load on your muscles and joints. And it requires you to adjust your balance.
As always, start conservatively with a load you feel confident carrying—like laundry, a sack of potatoes, or even a small bag of dog food. Then, slowly increase the weight (and/or bulk) as your strength increases. As an added challenge, you can also try lifting an object while balancing on one foot.
5. Jump a puddle. Children love to jump. And most healthy people can do it, too. But it taxes many different muscle groups and challenges your balance, so some older adults avoid it.
The key to a good, safe jump is to use your legs, with your arms out for balance. Then, focus on landing safely and efficiently, with proper alignment and stability.
You can start by jumping over puddles. Then, as your skill improves, you can add obstacles—such as creeks or streams—at greater distances and even height.
6. Have fun on all fours. Climbing over rocks or other types of rugged terrain in Nature is an excellent activity that challenge the muscles in your legs…as well as your upper body and shoulders.
If climbing is too challenging for you physically, just try crawling. (Yes, crawling.)
Research shows crawling—or any kind of all-body movement on all fours—can help older adults improve their:
- Muscle strength
- Core strength
- Shoulder stability
- Hip mobility
- Back alignment
- Sense of proprioception (or your sense of your body in space)
7. Throw a rock. Here again, you may think of this activity as child’s play. But you should give it a try! The next time you’re on a hike, pick up a log or a heavy rock to throw. Focus on increasing your power and accuracy. Chopping and stacking firewood are also two, good outside activities that challenge your whole body—if you’re able.
Always take it outside
In the end, it doesn’t really matter which activity you try…as long as you try to do it outside in Nature.
As I mentioned above, exercising outside in Nature is far easier on your joints than pounding away on the treadmill. Second, when you spend time in Nature, you trigger your skin’s natural production of vitamin D. Third, it doesn’t cost a dime. And perhaps best of all, it helps support your mental health, which, as I’ll explain on Thursday, has become an increasing concern for many people.