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Tired of the same at-home isolation workouts? Now is the time to get fit in the great outdoors.

Sick of cold weather and losing motivation? I hear you. As a trainer, I’m here in writing spirit to help you shake off the winter blues by challenging you to embark on an Active Adventure August. I’m encouraging my clients to break out of lockdown with outdoor exercise, and here’s why.

In 2003, researchers at the University of Essex formally proposed linking the benefits of physical activity while being exposed to nature. This concept was coined “green exercise” and initiated a rigorous scientific research program which has helped more than 12,000 people living with mental illness. Dr Rachel Bragg, from the Green Exercise Research Team at the University of Essex, said that when participants exercised outdoors they enjoyed “significant improvements in mental wellbeing, social inclusion and connection to nature”.

Sounds great, right? Here are some options for trying green exercise this month.

Go hiking:

Explore the hidden pockets of NSW and get your blood pumping with fresh air and a challenging hike. The Blue Mountains is a short drive from Sydney and has steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests, waterfalls and trails that will have you gasping – both in awe and for breath. There are numerous hikes in the region; travel comparison sites like Trip Advisor have lists like “The 10 Best Blue Mountains Hiking trails” voted on and reviewed by the public.

If you prefer coastal scenery, check out Sydney Coastal Walks – it offers tips, inspiration and insider information on the best Sydney walks.

Join a running group:

Like to move at a faster pace? Throw on your joggers and join the most inclusive run group in Sydney, The 440. The group originated in Bronte Beach but has spread to numerous beachside locations around Australia. It aims to offer inclusive, social fitness for runners of all abilities. Anyone can show up – so long as you don’t mind the early kick off times (as early as 5am).

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Try ocean swimming:

Even though most pools in NSW are still closed, almost every beach from Cronulla to the Northern Beaches is open and many have morning swim squads you can join. If you need to brush up on your stroke try VladSwim School, a popular choice among lawyers who train in the squad at Andrew Boy Charlton pool in summer. Due to COVID restrictions, VladSwim is currently only doing ocean swims from Coogee on four days per week – check the website for details.

Cold water ocean swims can have incredible effects on the body – improving circulation, boosting metabolism and flooding the brain with feel-good endorphins. Studies have also shown immersion in temperatures of 14 degrees can increase the metabolic rate by a staggering 350 per cent and dopamine concentration by 250 per cent.

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Grab a paddle:

If the water is too cold, hire a canoe or kayak for a great core burn and upper body workout.

Try rock climbing:

Fancy a high altitude, total-body workout? Give rock climbing a crack. Not only will your core arms legs and back get super toned, but it also improves stamina, balance, flexibility, cardio and it focuses the mind. Many climbers and athletes have described the experience as being in a flow state. If you can’t get out to an outdoor climb this winter, there are a few great indoor alternatives. My favourite is Sydney’s Indoor Climbing Gym in St Peters.

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BMX riding:

Studies have shown you can burn 600-800 calories in an hour of this exciting sport. Sydney Olympic Park has a Monster BMX track that will surely get the blood and adrenaline pumping. Everyone is welcome – beginner to pro – so bring your work friends and work up a sweat as you battle it out on the track.



Zara Michales
is a professional group and personal trainer. She has worked in gyms around Sydney for the past five years and is currently based in Venice, California.