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Fresh Air Activities for Outdoor Enthusiasts

According to the latest statistics by the American Heart Association, there are approximately 155 million adult Americans who are either obese or overweight. One way to improve physical fitness and one's health is to get outdoors and become more active. The number and variety of things to do when outdoors are plentiful, and there are often activities for people of all fitness levels. Participation in these types of activities is not only good for one's health, but they are also fun and a great way to get fresh air and can be enjoyed while in the company of friends. Whether participating in outdoor activities for health purposes or for the sheer enjoyment of it, people should properly prepare by getting the right equipment and taking the proper safety steps.

Hiking

Hiking is one of the ultimate outdoor activities and is the perfect combination of exercise and enjoyment. People who appreciate the beauty of natural environments often enjoy hiking. These long, energetic, and invigorating walks can be taken alone or with the company of others. They may be taken in parks or along designated hiking trails in the mountains and hills. It is a relatively inexpensive activity, as it requires only a good pair of hiking boots, sunglasses, a head covering such as a cap or hat, insect repellent, and sunscreen. Some people may use a walking stick during their hike, and often, people will carry a backpack to hold their supplies, such as water for hydration, a map, and an emergency kit. The exact gear that a hiker carries depends on where they are walking and the length of time for the hike. For safety, hikers should never go out on a hike without telling someone where they are going and when they expect to return. They should also plan out their hike so that they reduce the chance of getting lost. Planning ahead will also allow hikers to choose trails that are best suited for their skill level. When visiting national or state parks, checking their website is an effective way of learning about available trails.

Biking

There are various forms of bicycling that can be enjoyed either on a daily basis or as free time allows. The type of bicycling a person participates in will determine the type of bicycle that is needed. For example, mountain bicycling requires the use of a mountain bike. This type of activity takes people off of the paved roads and onto terrain that is rugged. Mountain bikes are made to perform well and handle these types of conditions and are typically heavier than traditional road bikes.

Bicycling on paved surfaces, such as city streets and roads, is an extremely popular activity for people of all ages. It is an activity that can be recreational or include racing events. For some, bicycling is even considered a regular form of transportation for one's commute or for running errands. When choosing a bicycle, people should select one that is appropriate for their frame and riding style. Skill is yet another consideration that must be taken into consideration when purchasing bicycles, as the wrong bike can be extremely uncomfortable and negatively impact one's ability to ride safely. Riders should carry and wear the appropriate type of gear when riding their bicycle. This includes wearing a properly fitted and situated helmet. Safety equipment in the form of reflectors should be placed on the front wheels and pedals. A rear reflector or light is also a helpful safety detail to add to one's bicycle.

Safety measures to follow include inspecting one's bike to ensure that it is road-worthy. This involves testing the brakes and checking the tire pressure. Inspecting the bike should also reveal any parts that are broken or worn. While riding, the rider can further ensure their safety by always staying aware of other vehicles on the road and looking out for surprises in the form of foreign objects in the road. Knowing and using hand signals and obeying the rules of the road is also crucial for safety, as is defensive riding.

Canoeing and Kayaking

When discussing outdoor activities, one shouldn't forget the water. A body of water such as a lake or river provides plenty of opportunity for outdoor fun and physical exertion. Paddling sports, such as kayaking and canoeing, are two such activities that are perfect as a lone activity or as an activity that friends, couples, or families can enjoy. In addition to the kayak or canoe, equipment and supplies needed for this type of excursion includes the appropriate paddles, including a spare, as well as a compass, map, a whistle, a VHS radio and GPS locator, sun protection, a helmet, throw bags, and a river knife. A bilge pump or bailer and self-rescue devices are also encouraged.

When participating in either kayaking or canoeing, practice good water safety to avoid injury or accidental drowning. One of the most important safety measures is to learn the basics from an instructor that is properly trained. A good option is to locate an American Canoe Association certified instructor. Another top safety measure to follow is to wear a personal flotation device, or life jacket, while on the water, as canoes and kayaks can, and do, capsize from time to time while on the water. For this reason, it is also important that people know how to swim when embarking on this type of outdoor activity. People who are canoeing or kayaking should let others know when to expect them back so that help can be alerted if there is a problem. Groups should know what their skill level and limits are and respect them. A part of this involves knowing what the water conditions are before heading into them. If people are uncertain of their ability to navigate rapids, they should be avoided. Additionally, while in the water, objects that could damage the canoe or kayak should also be watched for and avoided as much as possible.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is an example of an outdoor activity that is ideal for people who prefer more adventurous pursuits. It is an activity that requires a certain level of physical fitness and skill. Gear for this activity includes a helmet for novices and those who prefer to wear them, climbing shoes, carabiners, harnesses, webbing, a belay device, climbing rope, and camming devices. Because of the risk associated with this activity, it is important for people to be properly instructed prior to attempting a climb at an outdoor location. When learning how to properly rock climb, instruction should only come from experienced rock climbers. Ideally, people who are new to the activity should only climb areas that are rated as easy climbs. Other safety measures include checking weather reports before heading out to rock climb. Rain makes surfaces slick and as a result creates unsafe conditions for climbing. People who are taking medications, recreational drugs, or alcohol should avoid rock climbing. The use of drugs or medications can impair a person's ability to climb safely.

Swimming

Swimming is a popular activity for the whole family that requires very little in the way of equipment or gear. In general, recreational swimmers require little more than a bathing suit or swim trunks. Other gear used by professional swimmers and some recreational swimmers includes goggles, ear plugs, nose clips, and a swim cap. People who are learning to swim may use flotation devices, swim paddles, and kick-boards. When swimming, people may choose to swim in the privacy of their own backyard pool, a public pool, or in an area lake, the ocean, or other body of water.

Regardless of where a person swims, there are precautions that need to be followed for the sake of safety. One of the first safety rules or precautions to follow is to accept one's limits and skill as a swimmer. A person who is a novice swimmer should wear a life jacket when in rivers, lakes, etc. Regardless of experience, people should always swim with another person. Swimming alone can be dangerous, even for experienced swimmers, as fatigue or cramping can create a dangerous situation. People should pay attention to their surroundings while in the water. If an area is not a designated swimming area, it should be avoided. Even in designated swimming areas, there can be changes such as steep drop-offs, rocks, etc. When swimming with children, never leave them unattended, as children can drown quickly and often silently.