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The best outdoor activities for after retirement

Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy during your retirement years, and the benefits are only increased by finding an outdoor fitness activity you enjoy. If you're looking to get active outdoors this summer, we've rounded up five of the best outdoor sports and activities to pursue after retirement – whether you're keen for speed or prefer the slow lane, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Body

Why should you exercise outdoors in your retirement years?

Engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week offers multiple benefits for your mental and physical health, from helping you maintain a healthy weight to lowering your risk of illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. It is also key to maintaining your balance, flexibility and muscle mass, all of which tend to decline as you age but which are essential for maintaining mobility well into later life. Regular physical activity can also help preserve mental alertness, increase energy levels and ward off depression, all of which are important for making the most of your retirement years. The beneficial effects of exercise are enhanced when you get active outdoors, as the fresh air, sunlight and greenery all help to boost your mood, relieve stress, and potentially even promote longevity. Feeling inspired to make the most of the warm weather to reap these health benefits? Try taking up one of these top outdoor activities for seniors this summer:

Cycling

Cycling is gentler on the joints than running, but still delivers a similar rush of speed and great cardiovascular benefits. It's also a fun and environmentally-friendly way to get around, meaning you can stay fit as you go about your daily errands if you take the bike rather than the car – or go off-road on a dedicated cycling trail, where you won't have to worry about traffic. If you're also keen to travel, why not consider a cycling holiday abroad? Not only will you get to experience a new country up close, but you'll counteract the effects of eating all that holiday food as you go. If you don't already own a bike, make sure you buy one that suits your needs and physical abilities – different styles of bikes are suited to different types of terrain and some can accommodate different ranges of motion.

Swimming

Swimming outdoors in the sea, a lake or river is a wonderful way to get fit and stay cool throughout the summer months. Not only does it evoke memories of childhood holidays on the beach, but it delivers an effective cardiovascular workout that boosts circulation and improves muscle tone without putting pressure on sensitive joints. Remember basic safety precautions, however – never swim alone, and be aware of potential issues such as currents, tides and water temperature.

Yoga or tai chi

During warmer weather, it's delightful to take your yoga or tai chi practice outside to a beach, park or other green space. Not only does it provide a refreshing change of scene, but you'll find yourself even more relaxed and centred at the end of your workout. Aside from these mental benefits, both yoga and tai chi are excellent for improving flexibility, balance and muscle tone – all of which will help preserve your mobility and ward off those aches and pains that often creep up as we get older. If you've never tried either activity before, consider joining a class with an accredited instructor to make sure you're performing the moves correctly – these are frequently offered by local authorities or even as an activity in care homes such as those run by Bupa Care.

Walking or hiking

Amongst the simplest yet most effective of outdoor activities is plain old walking – but don't be fooled, this is anything but a dull workout. Take to the streets to explore your local neighbourhood, or hit the trails to check out the scenery or local points of interest – by choosing a variety of routes, you'll constantly keep your mind and body engaged. Walking or hiking burn calories, improve stamina and relieve stress, and like other weight-bearing activities, they're great for helping preserve bone density and muscle mass. What's more, you don't need special equipment or training to take part – just a good pair of shoes or boots, and a love of the outdoors. Join a walking group or hillwalking club if you like company on your strolls, or consider doing a walking holiday to see even more of the world as you go.

Tennis

Fancy something social and a bit competitive? Grab your racquet for a lively tennis match. There's nothing like playing outside in the summer (especially on a grass court), and all that swinging and chasing the ball helps preserve your balance, reaction time and coordination, not to mention providing a top-notch cardio workout. Vary the game by playing singles or doubles, and consider investing in a membership at a local tennis club if you enjoy the social side of the sport. If that's outside your budget, many public parks and recreation areas offer tennis courts where you can play for free or for a small fee – take advantage of less busy slots during the day when others are still at work.

Sources:

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/activities-for-the-elderly.aspx http://nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseforolderadults/healthbenefits/01.html http://www.medicinenet.com/senior_exercise/article.htm http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8654350.stm http://www.dynamicseniorwomen.com/top-7-outdoor-activities-for-active-seniors/ http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2012/05/31/5-ways-to-keep-fit-after-retirement

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