The covid pandemic has highlighted more than ever just how important it is to keep yourself fit and healthy with covid friendly outdoor activities. The past 18 months taught us to be creative with how we worked out, as lockdown restrictions meant gyms, sports clubs and swimming pools had to close. And so we moved outside. As Autumn starts to creep around however, the light evenings fade and the temperatures gradually start to lower, which means the motivation to exercise outdoors can start to lessen.
But the virus is still there and being outside will always be lower risk than sweating it out in a busy gym, which is why we’ve come up with a list of 5 covid friendly outdoor activities to keep you fit this Autumn.
Have you ever fancied giving horse riding a go? If you have, then now is the time to jump in that saddle, as horse riding is one of the best covid friendly activities you can try this Autumn.
If you’ve never ridden before, you will need to contact your local stables to enquire about some lessons. Most stables will allow you to have a taster session to see if you get on with it or will at least allow you to visit them beforehand so that you can check them out. It’s not the cheapest activity, so you want to make sure that it is a reputable stable – a lot can be said for first impressions and if you can see that the stables are well kept like these from valestables.com, that the horses look healthy and happy, and that they get good reviews, then you’re onto a winner.
Once you’ve had a few lessons, you may be invited out on treks, which take you out into the countryside to explore local trails. This will be in a group, but horses are very good at socially distancing so you will never get too close to another rider. The horses used in trekking are usually quite placid and have been trained to follow the one in front. Plus, there will always be at least one professional with you to help guide the group and keep the horses under control.
Can you think of anything better than riding through woodland and fields, breathing in all that fresh air, and knowing that you are getting fit at the same time as having the time of your life? Horse riding really is the perfect autumnal activity.
Many of us will have experienced some degree of mental health issues as a result of the covid pandemic. Outdoor activities, such as kayaking are great for helping not just our physical health, but also our mental health and wellbeing too. Kayaking, or indeed any water sport, is particularly good because of the calming nature of water. Just being out on the water somehow helps to relax us, to slow us down, and to create feelings of calm.
You can hire a kayak relatively cheaply and it is a very easy activity learn. You will be given a safety briefing and a buoyancy aid, but other than that you are free to head out onto the waters and explore. You can get kayaks suitable for one, two or three people, so it is up to you to decide if you would like company or not. From a physical point of view, kayaking is great for toning and building up your upper am and body strength.
SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) has been one of the most popular activities throughout the pandemic, and just because the summer is now coming to an end, doesn’t mean we need to stop this fun activity. Invest in a good quality wetsuit and you’ll be totally fine, plus all that practice over the last 18 months surely means you won’t be falling into the water any more now anyway!
If you haven’t yet tried paddleboarding, don’t worry there’s still plenty of time to learn, and this is one of the most covid friendly outdoor activities you’ll find this Autumn. The appeal of paddleboarding comes from the fact that you are in control, you can make it as relaxing or as strenuous a workout as you like, so in that sense it can be done by pretty much anyone.
You will need a paddleboard and paddle, which many water sport companies rent out or you can buy paddleboards from a range of different places if you would like your own. The best kind are inflatable ones, which are easier to transport and to store at home. Although it can seem tricky to begin with, it is all about balance and confidence, and once you have mastered standing up on it, it’s up to you to decide where to explore. Paddleboarding relies on core strength, and you can end up having a full body workout from a simple 20 minute paddle down the river. At the time it will probably feel like you’re barely moving and you may wonder what good it’s doing, but your muscles will definitely know about it the next day!
It is a great family friendly activity that everyone can get involved with and it allows you to explore areas that could be inaccessible by land, so you’ll be guaranteed to avoid the crowds. It’s fun, it looks cool, and it gives you the chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life, all while giving you an amazing workout.
Remember lockdown one? When we literally couldn’t do anything, other than leave our homes for a limited amount of time for a bit of fresh air and exercise? Seems a lifetime ago now, I know, but one good thing to come out of the pandemic is that it has encouraged more of us to head out on a daily walk. So now that we’ve got more freedom, it’s time to ramp things up a notch and give hiking a go.
You might be wondering what the difference is between walking and hiking, and put simply walking is carried out on flat, hard surface and is maybe one or two miles long, whereas hiking is on rough terrains such as forest, fields, mountains etc. and for longer periods of time. Both are fantastic for health in many different ways, but hiking ups the cardio and endurance, and because it is over a longer distance will also burn more calories.
Physical exercise like hiking promotes good heart health, helps to lower blood pressure, builds stronger bones and muscles and also increases the efficiency of the lungs. However, the mental health benefits are also worth mentioning too, as hiking allows you to escape into nature, and with the mental health of the nation at an all time low, we could all benefit in being exposed to more time in the great outdoors. If you need time on your own, it is the perfect activity to escape the worries of the world. But equally if you’d prefer some company, you can easily keep your distance from your hiking companions if you’re worried about virus transmission.
With the closure of swimming pools, people went out of their way to find other ways to get their water fix and one of those ways was wild swimming. Wild swimming is exactly as the name suggests – swimming in the wild. Of course, caution must be taken. You need to research the area you’re swimming in, firstly to check whether you are allowed to swim there, and secondly that it is safe.
Wild swimming can be done in the sea or in lakes or rivers and there are now plenty of local groups that go out together if you would prefer to seek the experience of others who have done it already, but of course it can be enjoyed equally as much if you go out on your own. Equipment wise you really don’t need much, just a wetsuit (UK waters are cold, especially going into Autumn), swimsuit and plenty of warm layers to wrap up in afterwards. You may also benefit from buying a pair of water shoes to help navigate over stony beaches or rocky riverbeds before you start swimming.
The health benefits of wild swimming are numerous. The exercise in itself is great as a cardio workout, however repeated exposure to cold water helps to improve metabolism and circulation, to reduce blood pressure and fat disposition, and is also a known stress reliever.
Covid stopped the world. None of us could have ever imagined what was going to happen and none of us will ever forget this strange time in history. For a while we were surrounded by constant bad news and negativity, as the way we lived changed completely. But as we slowly but surely creep out of these bad times it allows us to reflect on what we’ve been through and to recognise that not everything was bad. That actually it taught us a few things about ourselves, about others, and about how we prioritise things in our lives. To not take things for granted, ever.
Despite our freedom being taken away from us, in a sense it gave us a newfound freedom to try new things, to be brave and resilient, and to live life to the fullest. Seizing every opportunity. Now it’s up to us to continue with this lust for life and one way to do this is by trying new covid friendly outdoor activities, ones that perhaps you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t found the time or got round to organising before.
These covid friendly outdoor activities allow you to do exactly that this Autumn, while also still acknowledging that the virus hasn’t gone away and that we must all play our part in helping to stop transmission. Let us know which ones you try!