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By Jaimi Jansen
Summer may be coming to an end, but it doesn’t have to be over yet. We still have the Indian Summer!
For those who are not familiar with the term “Indian Summer,” it refers to the warm, dry weather experienced in the northern hemisphere during early autumn. Enjoying the still warm weather in Santa Cruz can be very fun and beneficial to health and fitness. Exercising outdoors, for example, helps lower stress levels due to the generation of endorphins and we can do this while enjoying the beautiful sceneries that Santa Cruz has to offer.
Here are some great outdoor activities to try this Indian Summer:
Morning Nature Walk:
Getting in the habit a starting your morning with low-intensity exercise outdoors will set the mood for a productive day. Research shows that exposure to sunlight during the morning hours has a balancing effect of the circadian clock and therefore the sleep cycle. While many love that morning cup of coffee to get the day going, exercise is a much better option. The increased circulation that comes from aerobic exercise elevates the delivery of oxygen to various parts of the body, including the brain and other muscles. Sticking to low-intensity exercise helps you do enough to stay alert and not be too tired for tackling daily tasks. It is especially beneficial to walk under the morning sun whenever possible. This not only relaxes an individual because of the warm sun rays but also promotes vitamin D synthesis, which is essential to bone calcification and for maintaining proper levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.
Stand Up Paddling:
Some of the best summer activities involve playing in water! The surf/paddling community in Santa Cruz is very popular and active as far as events and social interaction. Getting to know Santa Cruz beaches first hand and making a few paddling buddies can be just the thing you need to make the best out of the Indian Summer. Stand-up paddling is a lot more difficult than one might think! Maintaining balance on the board involves the active use of core muscles for coordination. Benefits of stand-up paddling include increased posture, circulation, balance as well as reduced stress levels. Any form of exercise is a form of stress reliever, but doing so in nature significantly increases the release of “feel-good” neurotransmitters like endorphins and endocannabinoids. Don’t have a stand up paddle board? You can also build core strength with a few simple exercises. Head to the beach or your favorite park to try out these excellent exercises for building core strength.
Meditate with Nature:
Meditating outdoors in a peaceful environment can be just what we need to take in all the beauty of Santa Cruz while promoting mindfulness and spirituality. Spending some time meditating surrounded by the redwoods or close to a flowing body of water can help us sync with nature. People who meditate frequently experience significantly lower levels of stress when compared to non-meditators. Some of the benefits of meditation include a boost in happiness, self-awareness, and longevity. The reduction of stress and of the release of stress hormones is thought to slow down the aging process and help reduce blood pressure. New to meditation and not sure where to start? Check out these tips on how to achieve a meditative state in 5 minutes.
There many bike routes in Santa Cruz that are both challenging and beautiful. Biking is great way to take on an adventure and get to know the area. Mountain biking is very popular and there are many options as far as routes. Wilder Ranch State Park is very popular and a local favorite with about 17 bike trails. Other biking areas include Soquel Demonstration State Forest with 9 trails, and The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. Furthermore, exercise at high altitudes brings the benefits of increasing the affinity of blood hemoglobin (HGB) to oxygen. Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells that is responsible for binding to oxygen during gas exchange at the lungs and for releasing that oxygen wherever it is needed in the body. High altitude means lower air pressure which means that there is lower overall concentration of flowing oxygen. This forces blood to become more efficient at oxygen binding by increasing HGB levels, even when atmospheric oxygen is low. Discover some of the best mountain biking trails on the MTB Project website.