Adventure Time! (Top Sante, Sep 2018)

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September’s cooler weather and continued long daylight hours makes it the perfect month for exploring outdoors. Discover how to use nature as your gym. 

These near autumn days are picture-perfect for outdoor adventuring.

Leaves are starting to give landscapes an inviting golden glow, and your favourite parks and woodlands are quieter now that the children have gone back to school!

Even with the somewhat unpredictable nature of the Great British weather, getting outside throughout the year can keep you healthier, happier and more motivated. Studies from the University of Innsbruck have even shown that the same activity can feel easier outside than indoors.

‘In the great outdoors we can feel a part of something bigger,’ says Sam Sutton, an instructor at New Forest Activities (newforest activities.co.uk). ‘It gives you a mental break, and is well known to produce feel-good endorphins.’ You’ll also be making – and reliving – plenty of fond memories.

You might find it a bit trickier to motivate yourself to get outside as the months turn colder, but the benefits are worth it. ‘Once you’re out there, you don’t notice the weather – you just notice the fun you’re having,’ says Sam.

It’s also a chance to expand your mind. ‘Learning new outdoor skills is a great way to build confidence, and it’s so much fun,’ says adventure expert Jenny Tough (jennytough.com). ‘When we were kids, we got to learn stuff all the time, but as adults, a lot of days are the same. It’s so exciting to try new things.’

Interested in ramping up your outdoor adventures? Here are some exciting activites you could try…

Messing About In Boats 

Canoeing and kayaking (canoeing uses a paddle with a blade at one end, while kayaking paddles are double-bladed) are two of the most natural and exhilarating ways to connect with your spirit of outdoor adventure.

‘There are so many ways to enjoy the water by boat,’ says Sam, ‘from crashing around on a sea kayak, rushing down waterfalls like a daredevil, to having a gentle float on a calm lake. However hard or gently you want to exercise, there’s something for you.’

A session of canoeing or kayaking will help you burn fat; even a gentle paddle can burn up to 140 calories an hour. It also builds strength in your legs, back, shoulders and the muscles that rotate the torso.

‘There’s a common misconception that it’s going to be an upper body workout,’ says Sam. ‘But with good technique you’ll engage your core, meaning you use your back muscles and abs, which improves your balance too.’

Canoeing and kayaking are intense but low-impact sports, so they’re kind on your joints and great for your bone health. ‘They are second only to swimming in the way they allow you to exert yourself without putting undue pressure on your body,’ says Sam.

What’s more, both sports are fantastic for mental wellbeing and confidence – kayaking can lead to increased social skills and an overall boost in self-satisfaction, according to research published in the Journal of Leisurability.

Targeted Fun With Archery 

A session of archery will work to strengthen your arm, back and shoulder muscles, as you repeatedly lift the bow and draw the string. It also benefits your knee and hip joints as you walk back and forth and bend down to pick up your arrows.

What’s more, if you’re feeling stressed in this hyper-connected age, you’re trying to increase your concentration and stamina at work, or you’re simply looking to find an accessible and alternative form of meditation, a spot of target practice might just be exactly what you need. After all, it seems that Robin Hood had his priorities pretty straight!

‘Archery is about focus and attention, says Sam. ‘It’s a brain-training exercise. You have to get into that rhythm and flow, and not let anything distract you.’

‘I learned archery as a child, and in hindsight it was probably my first taste of mindfulness,’ says Jenny. ‘You have to ignore everything around you, and be able to slow down and focus on one goal.’

Learn The Ropes 

Rope courses, a cross between an obstacle course and a climbing challenge, are very popular at the moment. While a session on a ropes course is likely to get you out of breath, they’re also a great way to build your self-esteem, improve your balance and develop your cognitive agility.

‘Rope courses are aimed at groups that want to bond and do something adventurous together,’ says Sam. ‘There is a physical element to it, but it’s more about getting yourself out of your comfort zone – without hitting panic mode.’

If you’re worried that your arms aren’t strong enough for all that climbing, then don’t be. ‘If you apply your technique right, it should be an all-body workout,’ says Sam, ‘Most climbing comes from your legs and feet, not your arms. It’s a good workout, but it’s not high intensity.’

Ropes courses are a great all-round introduction to adventure fitness, and they also provide an opportunity to enjoy yourself for the sake of it. ‘Rope courses do it all: balance, strength, confidence, focus and lots of fun,’ says Jenny. ‘It’s great that there are now so many places where adults can try ropes courses. Play isn’t just for kids!’