Get outside: Trends in outdoor fitness

A person hiking on a grassy surface in the mountains.

Not surprisingly, outdoor exercise has become the hands-down favorite type of activity among adults in 2021, fitness trend surveys show.

Maybe it has something to do with people being forced to work out in their living room or basement during the long winter months when many gyms were off limits due to safety concerns.

Whatever the reason, there is a surge in people trying hiking, biking or heading out on the water for paddle sports. Outdoor exercise classes are expected to draw bigger crowds this year, too.

Are you one of them? Or do you want to be? Here’s a look at some of the outdoor workouts that are drawing new devotees and tips for getting comfortable with each sport.

Take a hike

For a lot of people, their love for walking and tracking their daily mileage has stepped up a notch into an affinity for hiking. Heading out on a trail – whether it’s through the woods, along a beach dune or even in your local park – is a great workout for your legs and core.

You can change it up and find routes with hills for some added intensity and add hiking poles for more stability and some extra arm exercise.

How to prepare for a hike

  • Research your chosen trail to make sure you know what you’ll encounter.
  • Choose comfortable, supportive athletic shoes or day hikers.
  • Wear lightweight clothing in layers to accommodate weather.
  • Apply sunscreen to any exposed areas and pack it to reapply. Bug spray might be good, too.
  • And don’t forget to hydrate. Pack a drink designed for hydration, like XS™ Sparkling+ Electrolytes Sparkling Water. It has more electrolytes than most sports drinks and helps replace electrolytes your body loses as you exercise.

A person rides a bike at dusk on a road with a bridge in the background.

Just like riding a bike

One of the pandemic-fueled exercise trends has been the bicycle boom. In the U.S. alone last year, there was a 62% increase in the number of bikes sold.

People who had not pedaled in years were either buying new rides or digging their old bikes out of the garage, getting them tuned up and reacquainting themselves with the sport.

They learned what longtime cyclists have known for years – it’s a great workout. Biking can burn up to 400 calories an hour and ranks high as a cardio exercise. Cycling’s popularity is rolling strong into 2021, with some people finding they like logging their miles outside in the fresh air rather than in a spin class on a stationary bike.

Group rides are also expected to gain more followers as newer cyclists find they like the social aspect of riding as part of a local club.

Biking tips for beginners

  • Cycling newbies will want to make sure to have a bike that’s properly fitted to their size. If you don’t, your body will likely be complaining after long rides.
  • Wear comfortable, tight-fitting clothing that won’t chafe or be in danger of getting caught in your gears. (Don’t forget a helmet!)
  • Wear athletic shoes that feel good to pedal in, or, for some road bikes, specially designed clip-in shoes to prevent your feet from slipping off.
  • Pack snacks: Cycling is hard work. Make sure to pack some convenient, nutrient-filled snacks like fruit or sports bars. XS Energy Bars come in different flavors, and all have at least 9 grams of protein. They’ll give you fuel to keep on pedaling.

Two people kayaking on a lake.

Kayaking: Up a creek with a paddle

Kayaks have been the clear favorite of people who want to take their workouts onto the water. Using your arm and core muscles to paddle yourself in a lake or river is a solid workout.

People new to the sport can rent kayaks by the hour from a local outfitter. Those who purchase them typically buy a carrier for their car, which is about as easy to use as a bike rack.

Kayaking tips

  • If you’re buying a kayak, make sure it fits your body dimensions and it’s comfortable to sit in. Again, your body will let you know after a while if it’s the wrong size.
  • Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses are a must on the water.
  • Have a flotation device either on you or in the kayak.
  • Being on the water doesn’t mean you don’t have to hydrate. Pack a water bottle and consider an add-in like an XS Sports Twist Tube. Not only does it add a refreshing flavor and boost hydration, it has a unique combination of B vitamins and selenium to add nutrients when you’re on the go.

People take a break after a group run outside.

Group fitness classes: Share the pain

Group exercise classes held outside are becoming increasingly popular. If you’re ready to move your workout into nature, check your local event listings for outdoor classes in your area. These could include sunrise yoga at a beach, Pilates at the park, a rooftop barre class or a weekend fun run in your town.

Not seeing anything that piques your interest? Make your own group class by inviting some friends to meet you for your newfound love of hiking, biking or kayaking. Just remember the essentials: layers, sun protection, appropriate gear, fuel and hydration. Now go outside!

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