5 enjoyable activities with rewarding benefits of exercise

5 enjoyable activities with rewarding benefits

From finding your passion to a regular dose of me time - your workout routine should do more than just improve your fitness.

5 outdoor fitness activities


Around 70 per cent of Australian adults do less than the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day, and 90 per cent of us aren’t doing the recommended twice-weekly strength training sessions. Yet taking regular opportunities to exercise isn’t just about your weight. Exercise can help keep your stress levels in check, your mind positive and your energy levels soaring. Plus it can make life more fun!

“In order to stick to regular exercise you need to change your mindset,” says exercise scientist Martha Lourey-Bird. “Exercise isn’t a form of punishment! It’s a reward that you give yourself.”

Lourey-Bird suggests adjusting your attitude towards exercise by considering it as important as anything else on your daily to-do list. “After exercising just a couple of times a week, you’ll quickly realise how good it makes you feel.” Here, we look at a variety of exercises so you can find something you love.


1. Cycling

Why it's good for you: “Whether you’re on an indoor stationary bike, in a spin class or going out for a bike ride, the benefits of cycling are great,” says Lourey-Bird. In fact, a study at the University of NSW found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on a bike is extremely effective for weight loss. The study compared one group that cycled steadily to another group that completed eight-second sprints, with a 12-second recovery time (over the course of 20 minutes). The second group lost three times more weight than the first group.

Bonus benefit: “Cycling is non-impact, so it’s ideal if you have joint problems, which prevent you from running or walking. Even if you do other exercise, adding a bike ride to your routine every now and then will take the pressure off your joints.”

Tip: Make it your time - “Watch your favourite TV show while riding your stationary bike, so you can catch up on the latest episodes, while working up a sweat,” says Lourey-Bird.


2. Tennis

Why it's good for you: "Tennis is one of the few sports that is complete cross-training,” says Todd Woodbridge, Davis Cup champion and men’s coach for Tennis Australia. “It involves using power, speed, endurance and skills of the mind for tactics.” Playing tennis regularly can help you achieve improved aerobic fitness, a leaner body and a reduced risk of heart disease. Grab a partner, pick up a racquet and get playing.

Bonus benefit: In addition to the health benefits, playing tennis can make you happier, too. “Tennis is great fun because it provides competition with a wonderful social fabric wrapped around it,” says Todd. “You can’t help but lose weight if you’re outdoors, active and happy. It’s a perfect partner to weight loss.”

Tip: Make it social - Why not join a local tennis club, or grab your partner or friend for a friendly hit-around. If you get a group of friends involved you’ll be able to play a round robin as your stamina and skills increase.


3. Swimming

Why it's good for you: Deep breath. Dive. Splash. The wonderful feeling of cool water rushing over your head, cutting yourself off from the rest of the world. “Swimming is a terrific way to build cardiovascular fitness,” says exercise physiologist Neil Russell. Interval laps increase your speed and efficiency, which is also a great weight-loss tool.

“Unlike many other forms of cardio, swimming helps to increase muscle tone, strength and endurance in the upper body,” he says. It’s also an ideal sport for those with knee, hip and lower back injuries. “Mentally, swimming creates an opportunity to be alone and work through the challenges you face on a day-to-day basis in a positive environment,” he says.

Bonus benefit: If you have trouble falling and staying asleep at night, regular swimming can help you. “ is is due to the full body workout it provides and the thermoregulatory response that being immersed in cold water elicits,” he says.

Tip: Great for beginners- “Pool lanes are designated to different swimming speeds, which means you can choose your speed and slowly build up strength and endurance,” says Neil. Plus, there are specific pool lanes for walkers.


4. Horse riding

Why it's good for you: “In an age where we’re constantly contactable and giving our phones, tablets and laptops constant attention, horse riding offers an escape,” says Neil. “Similar to extreme sports, horse riding demands your full concentration and attention in the moment. This can be therapeutic, especially for stress management, as well as offering many physical benefits.”

“Learning to ride a horse will help develop your abdominal, lower back and pelvic muscles,” says Neil. “You’ll also tone and strengthen your legs, improve your posture, muscular endurance, balance and coordination.” Research published in the International Journal of Exercise Science found that riding a horse for 45 minutes at a walk, trot or canter can burn up to 30 kilojoules a minute. Best of all this exercise, can help you build self-esteem. “Learning how to guide, steer and generally interact and communicate with this large, majestic creature builds self-confidence in your abilities,” says Neil.

Bonus benefit: If sharing your ‘me time’ with an animal appeals to you, then horse riding may be a great option for you. A study of 1248 horse riders by The British Horse Society, found that more than 80 per cent of respondents reported horse riding made them feel cheerful, relaxed, happy or active. It’s also been suggested that horse riding can play a role in managing negative feelings relating to anxiety and depression.

Tip: Visualise your goal -  If you’ve always wanted to go horse riding, but always talk yourself out of it, having a mental picture may help you achieve get started. “If horse riding on the beach has always appealed to you, picture yourself galloping down the sand, wind in your hair, feeling fit and with a big smile on your face. You’ll be down at your local riding club to start in no time.” says Neil.


5. Walking and hiking

Why it's good for you:  The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends walking for 30 minutes a day to achieve optimum health. According to WHO, regular walks can reduce the risk of diabetes, depression, cardiovascular diseases, and colon and breast cancers. Plus, adequate levels of physical activity decrease the risk of hip or vertebral fractures and helps control your weight.

“Walking as a form of cardiovascular fitness has been shown to reduce the risk of developing and reduce symptoms of lifestyle related chronic diseases” says Russell. “Additionally walking in natural settings, like hiking, has been proven to significantly reduce stress and anxiety."

Bonus benefit: Walking is an exercise favourite because it’s easy and free – no equipment needed and you can head straight out from your front door. Exercising just three times a week is enough to relieve symptoms of depression.

Tip: Make it count -  If you’re going to make the time, make it worthwhile! Amp up your walking workout by adding some interval training, such as 30-second sprints or stair climbing.