Getting fit needn’t be a chore. Try these alternative outdoor workouts
‘Why don’t you play outside and get some fresh air?’ The best fitness advice you ever had probably came from your mother. Her motives may have been selfish, but she had science on her side as well.
When skin is exposed to sunlight, your body creates more vitamin D. Scientists have found that this strengthens bones, helps to limit the likelihood of breast and colon cancers and can even combat ’flu. Combine that with the sensation of wellbeing you get every time you suck in a lungful of fresh, non-air-conditioned air and it seems mum was right. So while the gym may have been your fitness saviour for the past few months, it’s time to take that workout outdoors with these beachside training games.
Sea sprints The aim: Develop muscles around the ankles and thighs If you told 100m world record holder Usain Bolt to run in waist-deep water, we’re pretty sure he’d waddle and flap along like the rest of us. Nobody has looked good sprinting through the sea since Baywatch, but take up the sea sprint challenge and you’re giving your full body (as well as a beach full of sunbathers) a real treat. Consider the evidence: all that flapping of arms is pumping more oxygen around the body, and every step you take you’ll be working muscles around the thigh and stomach. Underneath the surface you’ll be running on sand, therefore working your ankle muscles, and, best of all, this is a very low-impact activity so you won’t be bashing away at your skeleton.
Flip-flop long jump The aim: Strengthen the toes and calves There’s a good reason why professional athletes don’t compete in flop-flops, but try them as your footwear of choice for beach-based fun. You’re unlikely to sprain an ankle doing the standing long jump, and few friends will be able to resist the challenge of a good old-fashioned jump-off. Trying to keep your sandals on while simultaneously leaping as far as you can is a challenge for muscles around the foot, as well as a workout for your quads and hamstrings.
Limbo The aim: Tone and develop the stomach and back This Trinidadian dance takes its name from the word ‘limber’, meaning supple or flexible, and it’s easy to see why. Originating in the Caribbean island in the ’50s, participants are challenged to bend backwards from the waist and dance carefully under a horizontal bar without touching it or falling over backwards. After each successful passage the bar is lowered slightly until, literally, only the winner is left standing. Like an exotic reverse high-jump contest, the limbo requires no music (although it’s often performed to upbeat Caribbean tunes), doesn’t require any specialist gear ( a couple of bamboo poles will suffice), and is actually an intense workout for the upper and lower body. It is also one of the few land sports best played in a swimsuit.
Waboba beach balls The aim: Sharpen hand-to-eye co-ordination and reflexes Waboba is a very silly name for a very clever product. Short for ‘water bouncing ball’, the waboba is the brainchild of Swedish inventor Jan von Heland as an aquatic alternative to the Frisbee. Throw it at the water and it bounces like a regular ball would on a hard surface. The bounce can, however, be tricky to judge, and that’s where the fun comes in. Players with quick reflexes and sharp eyes will be plucking the ball from the air with ease while the less practiced will be forced to splash after the waboba.
Sandcastling The aim: Bulk up shoulders, biceps and forearms This may sound like child’s play, but you’ll get as much out of this exercise as you put in. Pootling along the sand with a few shells and a pretty flag is an activity more likely to find its way into our art pages, but digging is actually a great exercise for the upper body and lungs. The key is speed. Dig barehanded and with ferocity and you’ll soon build up a sweat; keep at it and you’ll feel the burn in your arms and chest. Push yourself to the limits and you’ll either be in a very deep hole, or giving your back, chest, arms and shoulders a free hardcore workout. Too much direct sunlight can be damaging to health. Avoid sunburn by seeking sunlight only in moderation and wearing sunscreen. If you’re worried about your health, consult a doctor.