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14 July 2021

Outdoor activities to enjoy in the summer

Now that summer is here, it’s a great time to get outside, enjoy the sunshine and improve your health at the same time.

There are lots of outdoor activities that are fun as well as being good for your physical and mental wellbeing. We’ve compiled a selection of our favourite activities to enjoy this season.

Our top 3 outdoor activities for summer:

1. Gardening

As well as an enjoyable pastime, working on your garden is an excellent way to get all-round exercise. It can increase your strength, endurance and flexibility and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other medical conditions. It can also decrease the likelihood of osteoporosis. When you dig, plant, weed or engage in tasks that require strength or stretching, all your major muscle groups get a good work out. It can improve your hand strength, pinch force and nimbleness and build and tone your gluteal muscles. 

Hands planting tomato seedling in soil in garden

Spending time in the fresh air and sunshine is also beneficial. As little as 15 minutes a day in the sun can build up your levels of vitamin D which is important for maintaining healthy bones and teeth.

Research carried out in 2016 by The King’s Fund, an English health charity, found that gardening can also play a powerful role in the care of our minds helping to reduce depression, loneliness, anxiety and stress. The social contact offered by gardening in an allotment environment can help to combat isolation while growing your own fruit and vegetables can give you a great sense of achievement. 

A study in the Netherlands in 2011 suggests that gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities. After completing a stressful task, two groups of people were instructed to either read indoors or garden for 30 minutes. Afterwards, the group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the reading group, and they also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In a study conducted in Norway, people who had been diagnosed with depression or persistent low mood, spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables. After three months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their symptoms. What's more, their mood continued to be better three months after the gardening programme ended. 

The researchers suggest that the novelty of gardening may have been enough to jolt some of the participants out of their depression, but some experts have a more radical explanation. Christopher Lowry, Ph.D., an assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado, has been injecting mice with Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, and has found that they increase the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood - much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do.  This exposure to soil bacteria means gardeners may also have a stronger immune system. 

Garden flowers, plants and wellies

Being surrounded by flowers is also linked to improved mental health. In behavioral research conducted at Rutgers University by Jeanette M. Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., the results showed that flowers are a natural moderator of moods and have an immediate impact on happiness and a long-term positive effect on mood. Even just looking at a garden can give you a positive boost. 

2. Cycling

Cycling is a great way to keep fit and active and boost your immunity and mental well-being. It’s also easy to fit into your daily routine by riding to the shops, park or work.

Older man cycling

Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, which means that your heart, blood vessels and lungs all get a workout, which in turn will improve your overall fitness level.

  • It’s low impact so it causes less strain and injuries than many other forms of exercise.
  • It can strengthen your bones and decrease your body fat levels.
  • Pedalling uses lots of the major muscle groups so it’s a great workout.
  • It doesn’t require high levels of physical skill. Once you learn how to ride a bike, you don’t forget.
  • It increases stamina, strength and aerobic fitness.
  • You can build up the intensity according to your fitness levels.
  • It’s a fun way to get fit and the enjoyment you get from being outdoors means you are more likely to continue to cycle regularly.
  • It doesn’t require any fancy equipment. Just put on your wide fit shoes and some comfy clothing and you’re good to go.
  • As with any exercise, it can help decrease anxiety and depression and improve your mental well-being.

3. Walking

Walking is one of the easiest ways to be more active. Sometimes overlooked as a form of exercise, walking briskly can help you build stamina, burn excess calories and make your heart healthier.

You don't have to walk for hours. A brisk 10-minute daily walk has lots of health benefits and counts towards your recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise.

A joint report by the Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support in 2012 concluded that walking could transform people's health by decreasing the odds of heart problems and stroke as well as making a difference in conditions such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's and many cancers.

People walking in woods

In some cases, walking can be more effective than running. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California found that brisk walking reduces the risk of heart disease more effectively than running. They observed participants aged between 18 and 80 over a six-year period and found that walking reduced the risk of heart disease by 9.3%, while running reduced it by 4.5%.

And there's even more good news: 30 minutes of brisk walking over five days could help you sleep better, according to research by Oregon State University. Their study showed that walking helped participants sleep better and feel more alert during the day.

Regular walking can also help you to:

  • Burn calories and increase your metabolism
  • Improve your heart rate, blood pressure and circulation
  • Improve your mood and help you feel brighter

Get yourself kitted out

  • Ideal for walking, whatever the weather, our CosyTex™ boots and shoes for men and women are 100% waterproof so your feet stay warm and dry. Specially designed to fit swollen feet, their cleated soles offer good grip underfoot and are shock-absorbing which helps take the pressure off your joints. 
  • If you need some extra cushioning under your feet when you walk, try our Shock-absorbing CosyCushion™ InsolesThey’re made from a special material which reduces impact on your feet and legs and helps prevent ‘step-shock’ which can cause tired feet, a bad back and even headaches. They’re only 3mm thick so they fit into most boots and shoes and have the added benefit of being antibacterial to keep your footwear smelling fresh.