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Short & Sweat: 5 reasons to take your workout outdoors

Story by Jen Edwards + Photography by Mike Ritterbeck

The Short & Sweat article series is meant to inspire you to become healthy and fit, while making the most of the beautiful Lowcountry. Each article will feature a new Short & Sweat workout you can do at a local outdoor public venue using only your own body and the environment around you. With year-round pleasant weather, amazing beaches and parks and plentiful wildlife, there’s no better location to take advantage of outdoor fitness than Hilton Head and Bluffton.

The positive effects of exercise on health and well-being are widely known, but did you know there are specific mental and physical benefits to exercising outside vs. inside? Before you hop on the treadmill to complete your usual indoor routine, consider heading to one the Lowcountry’s scenic parks or beaches for your workout. Here are five reasons why:

1. You’ll increase your endurance. Time flies when you’re having fun, or when you’re enjoying the Lowcountry sights and sounds around you. Chances are you’ll tend to exercise for longer with the distractions of dolphins swimming in front you, island sunsets painting colors in the sky or white egrets soaring by. Longer workouts will translate into better endurance.

2. You’ll reduce stress. Many people spend their days indoors, staring at screens. Getting outside to sweat is an opportunity to unplug from technology like texts, emails and phone calls, and be alone with your thoughts and nature. Your outdoor workout is a perfect time for reflection and relaxation.

3. You’ll burn more calories. Your body gets used to the workouts you do very quickly. When that happens, you stop seeing results and plateau. The ever-changing Lowcountry landscape keeps your body guessing as you run, power walk or bike through sand, grass and trails. Wind resistance can also add an extra element of challenge. How many times have you ridden your bike on the beach in one direction, only to turn around to head back, against the wind?

4. You’ll get a burst of Vitamin D. Of course, too much sun on unprotected skin is not healthy. Some vitamin D is important for your health and will help to keep your bones strong, decrease your risk of autoimmune diseases and heart disease, and help prevent depression.

5. You can exercise anytime you want. The outdoors is always open and available to host your next workout. There are no gym hours or class times to worry about. You can also go on vacation and know you’ll be able to stay fit anywhere, at any hour. That convenience makes you more likely to stick to a regular routine.

The Workout: 10-minute Shelter Cove circuit

Located mid-island, overlooking Broad Creek, Shelter Cove is an outdoor park that’s perfect for a quick circuit to tone you from head to toe. Perform each of these drills for 60 seconds of work, followed by 15 seconds of rest. Repeat the circuit for a 10-minute workout.

1. Picnic table push-ups Perform push-ups on a picnic tabletop (easier) or bench (harder). Pay attention to keeping your body in a straight line from the top of your head to your feet. Engage your abdominals and focus on squeezing through your chest and shoulders.
2. Cardio stairs drill Sprint from the top of the stairs to the bottom with a fast run or power walk. The extra incline will work your glutes and hamstrings as you burn fat and calories.
3. Sit-ups in the grass A plush, grassy field is the perfect spot to perform a set of sit-ups. With knees bent, arms are out to your sides (easier) or finger tips behind your head (harder) as you roll your torso up and down to work your core.
4. Step-ups on the pavilion Alternate stepping up with your right foot and left foot on a raised surface. This exercise tones your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings while increasing your heart rate and improving endurance.