Maybe it's the sweat factor, but some women assume that a summertime stroll qualifies as a workout. No question, walking is a fitness fundamental, especially during the workweek. But why not try more invigorating and challenging fun workouts on the weekend?
Outdoor activities such as biking, hiking, and inline skating allow you to reap up to six times more fat-blasting, body-shaping benefits than cruising around the neighborhood on foot. And you don't have to be a hard-core athlete or fitness freak to get the most out of the five we're suggesting. Top off your normal weekday exercise routine with one of these exhilarating weekend activities to get fit and firm--fast!
Calories burned: 340 per hour
Body benefits: A sculpted upper body. "Pulling the paddle against the water is great resistance," says 29-year-old Michelle Christensen of Baltimore, who spends summer weekends kayaking around the Chesapeake Bay. "You target your shoulders, triceps, biceps, back, and core."
Weekend Benefits: It's like meditating on water, says Rhett Pruitt, a 34-year-old raft guide and recreational kayaker in Long Creek, SC. She opts for tranquil sea kayaking over exhilarating white water when she's craving peace and quiet. "Sea kayaking is not intimidating," she says. "You're just inches above the water--the perfect vantage point for taking in the abundant wildlife and sea life that you would never see otherwise."
Word to the wise: Beginners should use an open kayak--or take a lesson to learn how to escape the kayak first.
Your destination: For breathtaking scenery, consider a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. To find local instructors, go to Kayak Online.
Calories burned: Up to 400 per hour
Body benefits: Improved cardiovascular fitness. "There's a lot of lung cancer in my family," says 49-year-old hiker Lynn Anderson, from Helena, MT. "It's always been a priority to keep my lungs in tip-top shape." Plus, hiking will give you stronger, leaner thighs and firm your rear to boot.
Weekend Benefits You get to unplug from society. Hiker Lori Pfankuch, 47, who traverses Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana, says: "Hiking takes you out of your world so you can reflect. I've seen mountain goats, I eat huckleberries on the trail, and last summer I saw my first grizzly bear."
Word to the wise: Invest in a good pair of boots or trail runners (go to Backpacker.comfor a buying guide) and be sure to break them in by wearing them on errands before you hike.
Your destination: Head to Gallatin National Forest in Montana or the Grand Canyon's South Rim in Arizona. For hiking clubs near you, check out the American Hiking Society.
Calories burned: About 400 per hour
Body benefits: Tank-worthy arms. This hot new game is a cross between racquetball, badminton, and tennis but with no nets or walls involved. Players bat a speeder--which looks like the birdie used in badminton--back and forth using lightweight racquets.
"If you can swing a racquet, you can learn to play, and it's great cardio," says 30-year-old Christina Higgins of San Diego, mother to a newborn and a toddler. "The results are similar to those in tennis--sculpted arms and back, toned legs, and better hand-eye coordination."
Weekend benefits: Time with friends. "Our neighbors introduced my husband and me to the game, so now we all play in our cul-de-sac," Higgins says. "The speeder glows, so we can even play well into the night."
Word to the wise: Pack chalk to draw a court, and remember: It's just a game.
Your destination: Anywhere, USA--that is, the street, your backyard, or the beach. You can purchase equipment for $30 to $50 at sporting goods stores or at Amazon.com.
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Calories burned: 500 to 700 per hour, depending on speed and terrain
Body benefits: Improved cardiovascular fitness plus solid legs and buns. "It helped me lose 20 pounds!" says Jan Reeves, 49, a recreational cyclist and mother of four in Lexington, KY. "And I eat whatever I want."
Weekend benefits: Cycling will give you more zip, both on and off the bike. "My kids told me I needed to get a life," says Reeves, who started cycling as a way to meet people after her divorce. When she completed a 4-day, 300-mile cycling trip last fall, she felt "totally empowered and energized; my kids are really proud that I ride."
Word to the wise: We know that spandex can be unflattering, but it makes a huge difference when cycling. Cycle shorts provide padding and wick away moisture, preventing your rear end, legs, and crotch from getting chafed.
Your destination: Try Redwood National Park in California or Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. For biking trails in your state, consult Bicycling.com. Also, to connect with women riders in your area go to the newly organized Giant for Women Ride Society.
Calories burned: 816 per hour
Body benefits: Sculpts your buns and thighs without pounding your knees. Skating is much less jarring than other high-intensity sports like jogging. "I was a runner for years but switched to skating when running started to hurt," says Joanne Geveshausen, 48, of Winchester, KY.
Weekend benefits: Provides a high-adrenaline release from mental baggage. "I needed an activity that demanded total concentration--and the gym wasn't cutting it," says Phyllis Wolf, 62, of Chicago, who started skating 4 years ago as a way to deal with the stress of caring for elderly relatives. "I skate for an hour, then go to the senior center--nothing bothers me."
Word to the wise: Don't be intimidated. "Few people my age are skating, which is too bad," says the self-proclaimed speedster. Wolf's advice: Ease into it by taking lessons.
Your destination: An empty parking lot or your driveway for practicing. For something more challenging, try the Pinellas Trail in Pinellas County, FL. Or, for good courses in your area, check out the Inline Skating Resource Center.
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