Warm weather has finally arrived, and that means arms, legs and stomachs are on display, often for the first time since last Labor Day. If the past winter found you staying in rather than working out, fear not. There’s still time to prepare for skimpy-clothes season.
Not a gym fan? Not a problem. Skip sweaty health clubs and head into the sunshine for some fun. Grab those gardening shears, lace up your hiking boots or head out with your dog for some Frisbee. Who says getting in shape has to be boring? We give you options from easy to challenging, so there’s something for everyone. By mid-summer, you’ll be fitter, firmer, and have a healthier pet and a garden full of fresh vegetables.
BODY PART LEGS
Creative use of self-tanning spray can do only so much; try these approaches for firming jiggly legs.
If your coach potato partner has four legs and a furry coat, you’ll both benefit from this one. Sedentary people who started walking dogs up to 20 minutes a day lost an average of 14 pounds in less than a year, found a 2005 study at the University of Missouri–Columbia. No hound in the house? Volunteer to be a walker at your local animal shelter or exercise a neighbor’s pet. To find a shelter near you, check out petfinder.com or pets911.com.
Hiking challenges your leg muscles and your heart, making it a significant calorie burner and leg toner. Going up and down inclines is hard work, and unpaved trails and steep grades also engage your abdominal muscles as you negotiate uneven ground. Hiking burns over 400 calories an hour—almost twice what you expend on level ground, says the American Council on Exercise. Find hiking paths in your area at sierraclub.org.
To really up the ante, try trail running. “You’ll burn more calories on trails than on the road,” says Dave Watt, executive director of the American Running Association. “Trail-running shoes are sturdier and weigh more. And the uneven terrain makes it challenging.” There are advanced trails for running as well as easier ones. Go to trails.com to find local paths. Also check out trailrunner.com.
These activities target the fronts (biceps) and backs (triceps) of your upper arms—you know, the parts you don’t want in motion when waving goodbye to friends.
Think Frisbees are for dogs? Don’t tell Andy Borinstein, a United States Ultimate Frisbee team captain. He describes the sport as “high endurance—it has the nonstop movement of soccer, the defensive strategies of basketball and the passing of football.” Not only does it work your arms, but all that running and jumping burns 200 to 300 calories an hour. Learn how to play at whatisultimate.com (click on What is Ultimate?).
Hitting golf balls or perfecting your softball swing works the arms and shoulders, so head to a driving range or batting cage. Or add water and go canoeing, kayaking, rafting or rowing for an invigorating upper-body workout. To minimize strain on your shoulder muscles while paddling, rotate your body to use the upper back as well. Find places to paddle at paddling.net/places.
If the Spider Man movies inspired you, rock climbing may be your fitness calling. However, it can be dangerous, so have an experienced climber show you the ropes. Aside from building arm strength, rock climbing gets your heart pumping, researchers reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2004. Try an indoor climbing gym for practice—and a good workout. If you’re on your own, consider bouldering, which is safer for novices. You climb up large rocks, but only to a height you can jump down from—usually about ten feet. For info and basic instruction, go to rockandpaddle.com and click on Rock Climbing.
You can just say no to crunches and still get fab abs. “Any activity that requires balance works the ab muscles,” says Barbara Ainsworth, PhD, MPH, an exercise scientist at San Diego State University. “Even weeding or standing on a ladder to trim a tree.” On that note....
Banish couch potato tendencies by heading outside to plant some namesake spuds. To avoid straining your back while hoeing, weeding and digging, tighten your torso muscles by imagining you’re preparing to take a punch. (Just don’t hold your breath.) Gardening’s cardio benefits are the focus of an aerobic gardening website; founder Jeffrey Restuccio says his favorite aerobic gardening exercises are the “lunge and weed” and the “squat and plant.” For more, go to ritecode.com/aerobicgardening.
Remember the days of hula hoops? You can feel like a kid again— and use your core (all the muscles from your shoulders to your hips)—while “hoop dancing.” Instructor and hoop designer Betty Hoops says you can burn 100 calories for every 10 minutes of hooping (about the same as running on a treadmill at a moderate speed) and improve posture as a bonus. Get started with the Dance Hoop Workout DVD kit ($30 at gaiam.com; comes with a collapsible hoop), or get a hoop for your body size at bettyhoops.com ($13–$58).
Go jump in a lake. Swimming requires serious abdominal and core strength, “especially the breast stroke,” says Ainsworth. “You can’t do it and just let your stomach hang.” You use core strength to maintain balance and alignment in the water; strong abs add to the power and speed of the stroke. The National Park Service Guide lists parks that offer swimming as well as a host of other outdoor activities at nps.gov; look under Parks and Recreation.
Living in sunny southern California, Linda Melone’s personal training clients can’t use the excuse of cold winters to avoid exercising outdoors.