From the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Are you ready for a change of pace? Being active outdoors allows you to breathe fresh air, get much-needed sunshine and may even give you a renewed sense of motivation. All you have to do is use what's in your neighbourhood or local park – slides, swings, benches and yes, even the monkey bars.

Get back to nature with these simple and effective activities and keep your physical activity program interesting and enjoyable. All it takes is a little imagination.

Pump up your heart

  • Walking/ Running intervals You can vary your intervals by sprinting or jogging for 20 seconds and then walking 20 seconds.
  • Hill walking/running Make good use of any hills or mounds to sprint uphill. Really pump your arms to get up there. Walk back down.
  • Markers Use trees, telephone poles and street signs as markers. Run/walk to the first (closest) mark, sprint back. Then run/walk to the 2nd marker (a little further away) and back to the start point, and so on. Use 3 or 4 progressive markers.

Bodyweight strength exercises

  • Squats Stand with your feet hip-width apart, squat by bending your knees so that your thighs are parallel to the ground, but don't allow your knees to go further forward than your toes.
  • Lunges Take a big step forward with the right foot and lower into a lunge (keeping the front knee behind the toe), step the left foot next to the right and then into a lunge on the left side.
  • Push-ups You can push up against anything – the ground, a bar, a bench, a tree. Or, for added intensity, you can do a push-up with your feet on a raised platform, for example, the bottom of a slide.
  • Step-ups Find any platform you can step on to. Step on and off with alternate legs. For power, go for a smaller platform but do fast steps. For strength, choose a higher platform and keep it slow and controlled.
  • Pull-ups. Use any bar that you can reach and grip, like a playground's monkey bars. Try your first pull up. It may be tough, and one is great to start out with, but add more over your next workouts.
  • Jumps Try jumping jacks, scissor jumps (alternating right and left feet forward) two-footed jumps (on flat ground and up steps), long jumps, jumps on and off a platform, jumps into squats, and hopping on one foot.

Try this 30-minute workout. Remember to choose beginner, intermediate or advanced to match your current level of fitness.

Time

Activity

5 minutes

Warm up – slow walking.

2 minutes

Walk briskly or jog
You should feel as though you're working, but be able to carry on a conversation without feeling out of breath.

1 minute

Walking lunges
Take a big step forward with the right foot and lower into a lunge (keeping the front knee behind the toe), step the left foot next to the right and then into a lunge on the left side.

1 minute

Speed walk or run
Pick up the pace here to increase your heart rate.

1 minute

Walk or jog
Slow down enough to lower your heart rate back to normal, about 80 beats per minute.

1 minute

Markers
Choose an object in the distance (a tree, mailbox) and run or walk to it as fast as you can. Walk to recover and repeat the sprints for the full minute.

3 minutes

Walk briskly or jog
You should feel as though you're working, but be able to carry on a conversation without feeling out of breath.

1 minute

Tree push-ups
Find a tree and stand almost a meter (2 feet) away from it. Place hands on the tree in front of you at about shoulder level. Bend the elbows and lower towards the tree in a pushup. Push back up and repeat for up to 1 minute.

1 minute

Scissor jumps
Put your hands on a tree for stability and begin with feet together. Jump up and bring the right foot forward, left foot back. Quickly switch feet and continue scissoring the feet as fast as you can for 1 minute. For added intensity, step away from the tree and swing your arms opposite from your feet.

1 minute

Speed walk or run
Increase your pace here so that you're working hard.

3 minutes

Walk or jog
You should feel as though you're working, but be able to carry on a conversation without feeling out of breath.

1 minute

Long jumps
Find a relatively flat stretch of sidewalk or trail and begin with feet together. Lower into a slight squat and jump forward with both feet as far as you can, swinging your arms to help propel you forward. Continue leaping forward for 30 seconds, take a walking break, then finish out the minute.

1 minute

Speed walk or run
Go at a pace that allows you to lower your heart rate a bit.

3 minutes

Walk or jog
Slow down back to baseline.

5 minutes

Cool down with an easy walk.

Before starting any activity program, be sure to talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional.

This physical activity column was written by a Certified Personal Trainer Professional and Fitness Instructor and reviewed by a specialist in kinesiology.

Posted: April 2010

Heart and Stroke Foundation

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