Kate Staples: The Boot Camp - Nature's playground

Former athlete and Gladiator and now all-round fitness guru, Kate Staples reveals the benefits of exercising in the great outdoors

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine August 2009Former athlete and Gladiator and now all-round fitness guru, Kate Staples reveals the benefits of exercising in the great outdoorsAs we finished another brilliant training session in the rolling parkland near Cobham, I decided to write this month's column about outdoor exercise and why I believe it to be the best way to get fit - both mentally and physically. People often think that you need lots of equipment and preparation to start training and exercising - but just a quick look around your local park will tell you that all you really need is some good training shoes and some motivation. Use your natural environment to create your gym - for instance, inclines in the land can be a fantastic way to change the intensity of sit-ups and crunches and improve your core stability, while benches and trees are ideal for stretching and warming up. Show me the sun Research has also shown that half of the UK population is deficient in vitamin D, rising to 90 per cent in winter. Natural light is our only source of vitamin D, so getting outside and getting some sunlight really can be a great mental, as well as a physical, boost. People who exercise outdoors are also less likely to drop out of their regimes. When you are exercising outside, your body works harder to regulate its temperature and resist the wind. Meanwhile, you are filling your lungs with fresh air instead of someone else's perfume, cologne or sweat!There have been some interesting studies into the effect of the outdoors on our health: one study of prisoners showed that those with windows looking out on to a bare courtyard needed 24 per cent more visits to the doctors than those with a view of the countryside. Another showed hospital patients recover quicker if they have a view of the surrounding parkland. A little help from your friends A great way to stay motivated is to train with a friend or in a group. The camaraderie and communal feeling of achievement will help you stay focused and enjoy the amazing buzz that you can get from exercising outside. It's always great to see the ladies in my boot camp really enjoying being outside, making friends and helping each other out. Surrey has some of the most beautiful places to train in the country, so use the amazing adventure playground around us - you'll be surprised what a difference it makes. Kate Staples runs Adventure Boot Camps across the South East. For details, see www.fitnesscamp.co.uk

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