5 enjoyable activities with rewarding benefits

Your workout routine should do more than just improve your fitness.

5 outdoor fitness activities


Taking regular opportunities to exercise isn't just about seeing the pin on the scales drop. Exercise can help keep your stress levels in check, your mind positive and your energy levels soaring. Plus it can make life more fun!

Despite the benefits of regular activity 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.

Exercising regularly (and sticking to it) becomes much easier if you enjoy the activity. It’s also important to change your attitude towards exercise by considering it as important as anything else on your daily to-do list. Here, we look at a variety of exercises so you can find something you love.


1. Cycling

Why it's good for you: Regardless of whether you’re on a stationary bike, in a spin class or tearing up the pavement; the benefits of cycling are great. 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 a great activity even if you have problems with your joints. The low-impact nature of the bike allows you to strengthen the supporting muscles without inflaming the joint itself.

Tip: Make it your time - try watching your favourite show or listening to a podcast.


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 a great way to give your cardiovascular system a boost. “Unlike many other forms of cardio, swimming helps to increase muscle, 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. Neil says this “This is due to the full-body workout it provides and the thermo regulatory response that being immersed in cold water elicits”.

Tip: Great for all swimming advocates whether you’re justing starting out or you’re returning to the pool-“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 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 maybe 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 decreases the risk of hip or vertebral fractures and helps control your weight. Exercise physiologist Neil Russell says that “Additionally walking in natural settings, like hiking, has been proven to significantly reduce stress and anxiety". The Black Dog Institute recommends exercising most if not all days of the week to relieve some symptoms of depression.

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.

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.