Summer is finally here and the outdoors is calling us :) Any moment that we spend in the warm, fresh air with some sun on our skin can elevate our mood and help us store positive energy and resilience that will see us through next winter ;) And while we are out… why not take the opportunity to move, have fun and build up some strength on the way? Here are a couple of ideas of how you can get full body benefits while spending time outdoors.
On your feet
Whenever you can, whether in the park or on the beach - Take your shoes off and let your feet feel the soil! The obvious benefit is that you get instant relief from improperly fitting shoes, which may cause bunions, hammertoes, or other foot deformities!! But your body (and soul) will benefit on many other levels! On a physical level, walking barefoot can improve your foot-ankle-knee-hip mechanics and by doing so improve balance, proprioception, and body awareness. It will help you maintain appropriate range of motion in your foot and ankle joints as well as adequate strength and stability in your muscles and ligaments. On another level, walking barefoot on natural surfaces (soil, grass, sand etc), also known as "earthing" is a scientifically-researched practice with a number of remarkable health advantages, such as increasing antioxidants, reducing inflammation, and improving sleep. Studies are showing that the health benefits come from the relationship between our bodies and the electrons in the earth. The planet has its own natural charge, and we seem to do better when we’re in direct contact with it.
Hang in there
If you’re spending more time in or around play parks take the opportunity to do a Passive Hang Stretch as often as you can! Hanging is one of our most fundamental and intuitive motor functions that sadly gets lost very quickly when we stop using it.
Simply grab onto a bar that isn’t too high with your hands about shoulder width apart, 4 fingers pointing forward and thumb wrapped around the bar (“full grip”). Keep your feet on the ground and your knees bent and allow yourself to gradually relax the whole body weight down. Keep the elbows straight, allow the shoulders to shrug up to the ears and draw the front of the rib cage gently down.
Sounds easy? You are soon going to find out that it is actually quite challenging! You may need to start with a number of reps of just 10 to 30 seconds and hopefully by the end of summer build up the ability to stay in this position for a couple of minutes :)
Amongst the benefits of the Passive Hang are:
Improved grip strength, which is very important for daily function! Ask older people who can’t open a jar anymore…
Improved range of motion in the shoulders - a must for daily function and any sports involving overhead movements such as golf and tennis.
Fingers, forearms, shoulder and rotator cuff strengthening (as well as many other muscles that run into the trunk and core)
Shoulder Injury prevention and repair. In his book “Shoulder pain, the solution and prevention”, a medical professional by the name of Dr. Kirsch explains how nature intended movement patterns for our shoulders that we are not currently participating in. This leaves us both weak and injury prone.
We put together some classes that will help you strengethen your arms and feet, so make sure to make good use of the outdoors and have a great summer!