Now that it’s finally warm enough to be outside (even up North), you should definitely take your workout outside with you.
Fitness in a natural, outdoor environment is one of the foundational backbones of the “Indigenizing fitness” movement. Heading from the gym to the ground will benefit you in more ways than meet the eye. Here’s why:
1. Open Skies = Open Minds. This means that when you go outside, no matter the weather, you’re more likely to feel clear-headed and relaxed. Nature will work wonders on your mental health, which will set you up for a more holistic and enjoyable physical workout. It works fast, too. Studies show that within five minutes of walking outdoors, stress levels visibly decrease. Finding ways to clear your mind is just as critical to a wellness routine as anything - especially if you sit in front of a computer screen most of the day (which many of us do).
2. Challenges of the Elements. Whether it’s heat, cold, cacti, water, tall grass, or big trees, when you go outdoors, you will face some type of added challenges and obstacles from your surroundings. It’s something that simply cannot be experienced under a roof. Studies show that even slight winds can up the intensity of a run or bike ride. Walking or hiking along rough, uneven terrain will work small muscles that would never be touched on the smooth ground of a track or treadmill. Even though these obstacles might seem tricky or unnerving at the time, you’ll feel so good about your workout once you’ve overcome them. Embrace the elements and remember that your ancestors stayed fit by living and working outdoors nonstop. You can do it for an hour or two.
3. Mother Earth Gym. One of the primary components of the Well For Culture movement is to utilize rocks, logs, sand, or other things found in nature as fitness equipment. We call it a Mother Earth Gym, and we use it as often as possible. Imagine doing pull-ups off the edge of a rock ledge or squats holding a giant rock instead of a dumbbell. It can be done- and it’s fun! Go out and find natural fitness equipment, but don’t forget to show respect, ask permission, and put things back where you found them.
4. Fun and Energy. We don’t need science to tell us that playing outside is as fun in adulthood as it once was as a kid. As much as I love going to the gym sometimes, there’s no doubt that it gets to be a little monotonous and gloomy surrounded by the sterile, cold energy of machinery and electronics. As much as I love the rowing machine, I would take any opportunity to row in a canoe or kayak instead. The energy of an outdoor workout will inevitably be more alive. Not to mention, the variety of things you can do outdoors far surpasses what’s possible in a gym. Whether it’s hiking, running, basketball, swimming, or just chasing around your little cousins, you can find all kinds of ways to work up a sweat under the sky.
Chelsey Luger. Photo courtesy Eller Bonifacio.
Chelsey Luger is Anishinaabe and Lakota from North Dakota. She hopes to be a strong link in a long chain of ancestors and descendants by spreading ideas for health and wellness. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Ideas for articles? Email her: firstname.lastname@example.org.