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FIT LIFE: Warmer weather leaves no excuse not to get out and get fit

Heather Hausenblas, associate professor of kinesiology in the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences

It’s not too late to get healthier in 2017 – even if we’re long past the season of resolution-making and folks have moved on to other priorities. But with eight out of 10 American adults not meeting physical activity guidelines, some serious motivation may be needed.

A simple way to get more physical activity is to spend more time outdoors. The research is clear – we are more physically active when we are outdoors than indoors. Unfortunately, Americans spend greater than 93 percent of their time indoors—despite mounting research showing the positive effect that fresh air, plants, trees, water and other natural outdoor elements have on our health and well-being.

But this could be changing. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the trend for outdoor activities has almost doubled in the last five years. With the variety of activities that can be enjoyed outdoors, it’s no wonder many are breaking the monotony of the treadmill by exercising outdoors in nature.

You do not need to be outside for hours each day; minutes will do. A review published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology found that exercising in nature for as little as five minutes improved both mood and self-esteem. And Finnish researchers reported that exercising in nature had stronger long-term health effects than exercising in built environments such as gyms or homes.

In other words, nature provides an added value to the known benefits of physical activity.

And there are other perks. Getting outside and getting a dose of sunshine can also help top up levels of vitamin D — just be sure to wear sunscreen and cover up to avoid sunburn.

With the weather turning warmer, challenge yourself to spend more time outdoors in nature. And walking is a great way to start your outdoor challenge. According to recent research from PHIT American, walking for fitness was ranked No. 1 on the top 10 “sports” in the USA — an activity that is great to do in nature.

Ask Fit Life

Is gardening good for your health?

Growing your own garden can do more than provide tasty produce and beautiful flowers. There are some major health benefits to getting a little dirt under your nails.

A recent review published in Preventive Medicine Reports found that gardening has a wide range of health benefits, such as reductions in depression, anxiety and stress, as well as increases in life satisfaction, happiness, quality of life and sense of community.

Gardening is also good for your waistline. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can burn up to 330 calories during one hour of light gardening and yard work. That’s more than lifting weights for the same amount of time.

In short, planting bulbs, digging trenches and pruning bushes can improve your physical, mental and social health. So instead of a Netflix binge this coming weekend, try getting your hands dirty.

Fit Life, by fitness and healthy aging expert Heather Hausenblas, associate professor of kinesiology in the Jacksonville University Brooks Rehabilitation College of Health Sciences, appears each month in the Outside section of The Florida Times-Union. E-mail your questions to hhausen@ju.edu. For more on JU’s Department of Kinesiology, visit http://ju.edu/chs.