Take it outdoors to unwind

PHOTO: Take it outdoors to unwind

A workout should be "me" time and not "fight with 10 other people for the treadmill" time.

If going to the gym is starting to be more aggravating than rewarding, try working out at a park.

There are more than 40 locations in Singapore to choose from and they never close. Best of all, it costs nothing to join.

Parks and fitness corners are accessible locations for exercise, said Ms Annette Sim, a physiotherapist at Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

Neighbourhood parks, especially, are close to many people's homes.

Fitness corners are also equipped with exercise structures which cater to all ages, while parks have wide open spaces which are conducive for running, trekking or group activities, she said.

"Even playgrounds can be used for innovative exercises," said Ms Sim.

Compared with the gym, working outdoors has been shown to be more beneficial.

A 2007 study in the United States found that being active outdoors facilitated physical activity and social interaction, while reducing sedentary behaviour, said Ms Sim.

Furthermore, natural environments foster positive moods and help to reduce stress.

Another US study in 2012 found that when people exercised outdoors, they stepped up their physical activities for a longer period of time as they enjoyed their exercise more, said Ms Sim.

It is a sustainable and easily available alternative for those who find it difficult to psych themselves up for regular gym workouts.

DANGERS OF A SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE

Staying inactive is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, said Ms Felicia Seah, a senior physiotherapist at SGH.

It also contributes to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all of which can be improved through exercise, she said.

There are other reasons to get out there and get moving.

Physical activity has been shown to contribute to psychological well-being and reduce depression rates, said Ms Seah.

The Health Promotion Board recommends that adults accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.

Do not worry if you cannot do big chunks of exercise at one go.

Activities can be done in 10-minute sessions over the course of the day, said Ms Seah.

An example of a quick workout is to run to your nearest park in the mornings after dropping off your children at school and before going to work.

Then, go for a slightly longer run after work and before dinner.

Not going to the gym does not mean your health has to suffer, said Ms Sim.

The key is to be creative with your exercise routine. Some examples of what you can do in the park are:

1. Organise group activities, such as taiji, football or outdoor yoga.

2. Take your pet out for a stroll or walk with a friend.

3. Try a new cycling trail.

4. Conduct your personal circuit training around the park. Having the change in terrain challenges your body to produce a better result.

Said Ms Sim: "Find something you love and enjoy. It would help to make the workouts sustainable."

Be creative with your routine

The following are suggestions on how to get a workout in your neighbourhood park, compiled by Ms Felicia Seah, a senior physiotherapist at SGH.

JOGGING/RUNNING

What you need: Towel, water bottle, running shoes and running attire.

A study in the US last year suggested that jogging between one and 21/2 hours per week at a slow to moderate pace, two or three times per week, helps to maximise long-term cardiovascular health, said Ms Seah.

CYCLING

What you need: Covered shoes, helmet and bicycle. Rental kiosks are available in some parks. For more information, visit the National Parks Board's website (www.nparks.gov.sg).

For cycling enthusiasts, the park connector network provides an opportunity to explore a 200km scenic track around the island.

TAIJI

What you need: Comfortable clothes, covered shoes and a water bottle.

Taiji is often referred to as meditation in motion, involving not only body movement, but also mental focus and breathing control, said Ms Seah.

Studies have shown that practising taiji improves strength, balance and physical function.

It also prevents falls in older adults.

In addition, it is said to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbances, while increasing one's self-esteem, she said.

WALKING YOUR DOG

What you need: Comfortable attire.

A study published in the American College Of Sports Medicine's Health And Fitness Journal suggests that owning a dog may motivate and encourage people to start walking.

FITNESS CORNER WORKOUTS

There is a variety of equipment available at fitness corners in the parks around Singapore.

Machines, such as the stationary rower and the elliptical trainer, help to improve cardiovascular strength.

Other machines target different muscle groups.

"For example, the leg press machine targets the quadriceps, gluteals and hamstring muscles," said Ms Seah.


This article was first published on Nov 13, 2014.
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