by guest blogger Greg Hoak, MS, CSCS
While recently strolling around REI, a popular outdoor gear store, I had an epiphany. Looking around—whether it was in the rock climbing section, the camping gear aisle, or the paddling area—every single person in the store was in shape. That’s saying a lot, considering this is a country where nearly 70 percent of the adult citizens are overweight.
It makes sense. As a trainer and sustainable farmer, my wife and I created the FarmerFit program to get people working out in surroundings that feel good. Because let’s face it, push-ups and planks are a lot easier to take when you can gaze off into wildflower fields or focus on the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. When exercise is fun, you keep doing it. It’s that simple.
With that in mind, here are some fun ways to get out and enjoy nature while losing weight at the same time:
1. Rock Climbing. You don’t need to scale Patagonian rock faces the way you’ll see in the documentary 180 South (although I highly recommend watching it for inspiration.) Even basic rock climbing is a real calorie burner and helps you work parts of the body that sometimes get neglected, including your fingertip grip and forearms.
What It Works: Back, grip strength, calves.
Calories Burned: 400 to 900 calories an hour.
Quick Tip: Go to your local indoor rock gym and start with beginner lessons. You can rent all of the equipment. Most rock gyms also offer outdoor excursions you can sign up for to climb with the aid of an expert.
2. Kayaking. What’s more motivating? Staring at the blank wall while cranking it out on a rowing machine or paddling down a local stream with birds providing a unique soundtrack? Burning calories in nature gets my vote every time, weather permitting.
What It Works: Core, upper body, balance.
Calories Burned: Even at a leisurely pace in calm waters, about 200 to 400 calories an hour.
Quick Tip: Start in shallow, calm waters, and always paddle with an experienced friend or guide if you’re a beginner.
3. Hiking/Mountaineering. People often subscribe to crash diets or exercise programs when they have something big (say, a wedding) coming up. But what if your next goal is to hike a set of trails in your area? Find a few friends and create a “Trails to Conquer” list for spring and summer. The hikes don’t have to be crazy—stay within your abilities—but should gradually increase in difficulty.
What It Works: Glutes, quads, calves and hamstrings.
Calories Burned: 400 to 600 calories an hour, depending on difficulty.
Quick Tip: American Trails.org is a great online resource to find trails in your area.
4. Gardening. Organic gardening is a must when it comes to nourishing your soul and body. It’s also a great excuse to cancel your summer cable subscription to get outside and burn extra calories. By taking some of your food supply into your own hands, you’re committing to growing healthy calories while also getting your calorie balance in check.
What It Works: Back, lower body.
Calories Burned: 200 to 400 calories per hour, depending on how bad a weed situation you have on your hands!
Quick Tip: To make sure you’re fueling with the healthiest foods, plant organic seeds and transplants, and make sure you’re using high-quality compost, not sewage sludge or factory-farm waste marketed as organic.
Greg Hoak, MS, CSCS, is the developer of FarmerFit and has been a professional fitness trainer for 12 years. He earned an exercise science degree from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in exercise science from California University of Pennsylvania. He’s trained professional athletes and mixed martial arts fighters, amateur athletes, and everyday people. He’s also a sustainable farmer at Potter’s Farm in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, where he and his wife run a community-supported agriculture program, growing vegetables and tending to egg-laying hens raised on pasture.