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Get fit for free. Hint: It's not the only benefit of taking your workout outside

Tips for making the most of an outdoor workout - and a few important things to consider.
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Moving your fitness routine outdoors during the warmer months in Vancouver? Here are some tips for how to make the most of an outdoor workout.

Clearer skies and longer days may have you thinking about taking your fitness routine outside so you can soak up some of that long-awaited sunshine.

While there is no debate that any form of movement can help improve your overall physical fitness, according to research, moving your body outdoors has added benefits.

These extra “perks” can include:

A natural mood boost

Spending time in nature has been shown to decrease stress and improve relaxation. Not only is breathing clean air a welcome relief from poorly ventilated work spaces but also the added vitamin D has psychological benefits such as reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety by encouraging the production and release of serotonin.

You’ll push yourself harder

Exercising outdoors will challenge your body in new ways due to the varying terrain and temperature. You’re also more likely to workout longer because the changing environment is more mentally stimulating and you won’t be counting down the minutes until you can get off the treadmill!

Best of all, it’s free!

With the average gym membership costing between $50 and $70 a month in Vancouver, and a membership to a private studio costing between $90 and $120 a month, taking your sweat session to a local park, trail or beach will save you some big coins (not to mention the money you’ll be saving in gas!).

While working out in the fresh air can maximize your well-being (and your wallet), here are a couple of important things to also consider before lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement.

Exercise outdoor safety (pun intended!)

It is essential to protect yourself from the elements while exercising year-round, but the risk of sunstroke in the summer is much higher, especially in deconditioned individuals.

Wear a hat, and UV protective sunglasses and apply sweat-resistant sunscreen. Know the warning signs of heat exhaustion and hydrate with plenty of water before, during and after your workout to avoid muscle spasms and replace fluids lost. Lastly, wear breathable clothing and avoid extreme temperatures. You may have to adjust your outdoor movement to earlier in the morning or in the evening as temperatures tend to peak between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Always include a proper warm-up and cool-down

Although your body may feel warm to the touch in hotter weather, your muscles still need to move through an adequate range of motion movements in preparation for your workout. Beyond increasing your breathing and body temperature, a warm-up is designed to lubricate your joints and stretch your muscles. Skipping over this step greatly increases your risk of injury especially outdoors since the terrain can be uneven, have rocks or even unsuspecting potholes.

On the other hand, a cool-down is especially important to gradually bring down your heart rate and avoid venus pooling - blood pooling in your limbs which can cause light-headedness, dizziness or fainting. Taking a few minutes at the end of your workout to stretch will also prevent delayed muscle soreness and keep your joints healthy.

Bonus tip: Create a killer playlist

Everyone knows that good music makes for a better workout. Grab your speaker and cue up your favourite pump-up jams to keep you motivated. Of course, be mindful of the volume and other people within your vicinity.

With sunny days ahead and proper preparation with these tips, you can save a few bucks by putting your gym membership on hold for a few months and enjoy safe summer workouts!

Kelsey Ellis is a Certified Personal Trainer, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and Certified Professional Life Coach in Vancouver. Her focus is body positivity and helping people move with joy, build self-acceptance and take the shame out of their fitness game. Find Kelsey on Instagram at @healthy_with_kelsey.