Outdoor Activity Promotes Happiness and Is a Low Cost Option
With the climate and sunshine that we’re blessed with in Hawaii, it should never be a chore to participate in some outdoor activity. Whether you’re working on a project outside, taking part in open air sport or working on your fitness through another outdoor activity, there are lots of health benefits to be gained. While people usually think of strengthening their heart and lungs, toning their muscles and achieving a healthy bodyweight through exercise, when you take part in activity in the fresh air, you provide your body with a number of additional benefits. Here we take a look at what these are and making the most of what this area of Hawaii has to offer for physical activity.
Boosts mental health
You’ll have probably heard that regular exercise can help to lift your mood and there’s a lot of truth in that. What’s more, if you take part in outdoor activities the benefits to mental health are even greater. The positive impact that exercise has on your outlook is largely related to the release of natural chemicals in the brain during activity. Endorphins, dopamine and serotonin all trigger feelings of happiness, well-being and calm and particularly the former is known as the body’s feel good hormones. The presence of greenery in your surroundings has been shown to increase the effects on mood further, which may relate to the calming influence of the color green or that in natural surroundings the peaceful environment helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety; areas of water such as lakes and rivers, seem to produce further benefits still.
Top up vitamin D
When your skin is exposed to sunlight you generate vitamin D. This vitamin is mainly associated with maintaining the strength of our bones by helping the body to absorb calcium, but research increasingly shows that a range of other body systems also need it to stay in good health; a deficiency is now linked to a greater risk of developing diabetes, multiple sclerosis, certain cancers and depression. As there are few foods rich in vitamin D – oily fish, eggs, fortified cereals, milk and margarines are about the only ones – it’s vital that we expose our skin regularly to the sunshine. What better way to do it than when enjoying activities outside?
Overcoming the costs
When you think of outdoor activities, what springs to mind? For some people it might be surfing, kayaking or horse riding and they’ll say that they couldn’t possibly do these regularly, as they’re too expensive to participate in. While costly kit and lessons can be a barrier to certain pursuits, there are ways to get around this, with some activities in the great outdoors having little or no cost attached to them. Take hiking for instance; all you need are some sturdy shoes or boots and a map, and then you can be off. Another economical option is cycling. Admittedly there is the initial outlay of purchasing a bike, but there’s no need to buy one that’s brand new; check the adverts in the local newspaper, in store or on online forums for second hand bikes for sale in the neighborhood. Alternatively you could consider taking part in a bike sharing scheme to keep down the costs. Once you’ve also got a helmet, you can take to the saddle and if you think about the money you will save on transport fares into the bargain, using a bike becomes more and more appealing. You may wish to consider taking out bicycle insurance, as not only will this protect you against theft and damage, but also covers you should you have an accident.
If you’ve been inspired to put on your walking shoes, why not try the following trails?
- Only a short drive north of Kailua-Kona is the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, which doesn’t just let locals and visitors alike explore the culture and history of Hawaii, but provides a number of trail options. You can pick up the Mamalahoa Trail, which is about 7 miles in length, but you can walk as much or as little of it that you choose; a mile and a half of the trail are within the park’s bounds, but you can continue either way to Keahole Point or to the airport. The path is easy to follow, but there’s little shade, so it’s best walked early or late in the day to avoid the sun when it’s at its peak. Another option is to take the shorter Ala Hele Ike Trail from the visitor center to the beach.
- Less than 3 miles north of Kona airport is Kekaha Kai State Park. There is free admission to the park and although the beach at Mahaiula is a good bet for swimming, Frisbee or a ball game, you can also hike out from here. If you are looking for a longer hike, the 4.5 mile coastal trail to Kua Bay is a good option; if you don’t fancy the return leg, arrange to be picked up from there. Half way along the trail take the short diversion to climb to the top of Pu’u Ku’ili, at 342 feet tall this cinder cone offers great views of the surrounding coastline.
- If you head inland, the Honuaula Forest Reserve offers the opportunity to walk off the beaten track, so if a quiet walk is what you’re after, this is one of the places you can head to. The reserve’s O’oma trail at only a mile long is ideal for a short walk and takes you in a loop through tranquil fern forest; despite its position on the slopes of the Hualalai Volcano (now extinct), the walk is largely on the level. Just bear in mind that you’ll be walking through a cloud forest, so expect to be wet after your hike.
With many more trails besides, you are spoilt for choice in this region of Hawaii. Take the opportunity to explore all that it has to offer to reap the health benefits of outdoor activity.
Paddle Your Way To Fitness
We have some of the world’s most beautiful scenery and wildlife right on our doorstops here in Hawaii. We are blessed to live here with all the opportunities it offers us to get out and enjoy the great outdoors and the many choices it provides us for exercising and staying fit.
Our West Hawaii coastline is stunning, and we have looked at some of the great walks that are available along its shores. Now we’re going to take it one step further and venture out on to the water. The world’s fastest growing water sport is stand up paddle boarding, or SUP, and there is no greater place in the world to do it than Hawaii. Not only do we have some beautiful coastal waters to make the most of, but the sport also originated in Hawaii. The Hawaiian term Ku Hoe He’e Nalu; to stand, to paddle, to surf a wave is at the sport’s heart.
Getting fit and healthy
SUP is a fantastic form of exercise allowing you to make the most of the outdoors and getting fit at the same time. Professional surfers use it to help them stay in peak condition while the surf is flat. That gives you some idea of how much of a great workout it can be!
The beauty of SUP is that it is a form of exercise that most people can master within half an hour, unlike the closely related sport of surfing which can take years of dedication to grasp even the basics. The greater length and width of the board means it is relatively easy to stand on. After a few minutes spent on land learning the basics of how and where to stand you will be ready to hit the water to practice.
A full body workout
Once out on the water and paddling you will be giving yourself a core and cardiovascular workout. The level of the workout is determined by how hard and the speed at which you paddle, as well as a few natural factors such as wind, waves and currents. Balancing on the board engages all your core muscles, whilst paddling uses your upper body muscles.
SUP has a great advantage over training in the gym. Training on unbalanced surfaces, such as on a board on the sea, is great for working your core stomach and lower back muscles. It also teaches your muscles to work in a coordinated way, working in pairs, which is beneficial for your body in other sports as well as everyday activities. Resistance training in a gym, on the other hand, trains muscles to work in isolation in a stable environment, which is fairly useless in most real life situations and sports.
The coordinated firing of neural messages from your brain to get your muscles to contract exactly the right amount at the right time, while the opposing muscles relax the correct amount is the effect of body memory. In this respect SUP can be very rewarding as your body learns the basics very quickly. A sport which initially feels difficult will be mastered by most people within half an hour. A very rewarding feeling!
As well as being enjoyable, it is a great fat burning form of exercise. If you are wanting to lose weight, combining a regular paddleboard work-out with a healthy diet is a great way of achieving your goals. You will notice a difference in your body, as well as your energy levels, in a matter of days. You do need to keep your energy levels up while paddleboarding though as you will be expending a lot of energy. A diet that is high in proteins and contains saturated fatty acids combined with high levels of exercise will result in loss of body fat while allowing you to tone up and increase your muscle content. Make sure you drink plenty of water before and after paddleboarding, especially if doing it in hot weather. It can be thirsty work and it is not easy to carry water with you out on the board.
One of the latest SUP trends is SUP yoga. Many people describe a feeling of peace when out on the water, so what better place to do yoga than out on a paddleboard with a powerful connection to the outdoors.
A good cause
As well as being a great form of exercise, SUP in Hawaii has also been raising awareness of very worthy causes. Saturday 9 February saw the first ever SUP race benefiting skin cancer awareness. The short course race was designed to encourage paddleboarders of all levels to get involved and support the work that the University of Hawaii Cancer Center does. All the proceeds from the event went to the UHCC, who will be having their grand opening in late February. Free cancer screenings were given to all at the finish line.
Keep an eye out for more SUP events coming up as they can be a really great way to socialize and meet other SUP fans.
Take in the sights
A unique benefit of SUP is that you are standing at full height so the views of the surrounding landscape as well as any wildlife are fantastic. Hawaii is rich in both and offers the ideal location for SUP. The Kahalu’u Beach Park is an ideal site with the protective rock wall surrounding the bay from the surf, creating gentle conditions, and boards can be hired from the beach.
Give SUP a go and you’ll be making the most of our fantastic natural resources as well as getting fit.
Mahalo to Stephen, Joan, Anna, Lori, Jay, Jada, Keiko and Betty..:))
Ed is the reason the plants at the Maka’eo path are so green, colorful and healthy. If it wasn’t for his irrigation talents, we wouldn’t have the Beautiful Path that we have. He spends tireless hours putting in, fixing and making sure all the timers, hoses and emitters are in tip top shape. We all thank him with our hearts for being a part of the Friends for Fitness and being a Fantastic Volunteer!!