Boost your mood with outdoor exercise

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photoStefanie Fisher, owner, Vancouver Adventure Boot Camp

Now is a great time to incorporate outdoor activities and exercise into your daily routine. Exercising outdoors not only benefits your physical fitness, but also contributes to your emotional well-being. Research published by the American Chemical Society shows that only five minutes of 'green' exercise per day improves mood and mental health for long-term benefits. I believe everybody has five extra minutes of time each day. No excuses! Get out, get moving!

New to exercise? Start with a small goal. Commit to walking around your neighborhood park for 5-10 minutes daily. It takes at least three weeks to form a habit; be consistent. Once a routine is established, you'll miss your walk if you skip it. Slowly increase intensity and speed, or integrate jog/walk intervals. Gradually extend the duration.

Walking and jogging aren't the only outdoor activities. Be adventurous! You could join a Dragon Boat team, take sailing lessons, or join a hiking class at a community college and learn about local plants. If you’re a mom, go for a stroller jog. Participate in a doggie dash with your pet.

Already active? Switch your cardiovascular workouts from the treadmill to outdoors. Clark County has excellent neighborhood parks. Both Salmon Creek Trail and the Waterfront Trail are popular with exercise enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. If you prefer a shady location, try power-walking or jogging under the canopy of beautiful old trees on Officers Row. Incorporate trail runs. LaCamas Lake Park, for example, offers 3.6 miles of unpaved trails in a scenic setting. Running on unpaved trails is kinder to your joints. The county offers a variety of trails for mountain biking, as well as miles of rural routes for road bikes. Try kayaking at Vancouver Lake, or in Ridgefield for a relaxing change of scenery, as well as an opportunity to challenge new muscles.

The more athletic could add stairs to their workout. My two favorite spots for exhilarating stair workouts are the riverfront amphitheater, next to Red Lion at the Quay, and the lookout tower at Marine Park, near the boat ramp. Tina Eifert, Adventure Boot Camp instructor for the Salmon Creek/Ridgefield location, likes to run the trails and hills at Washington State University. She occasionally utilizes the track and stadium benches at Columbia River High School to perform interval drills, dips, push-ups, step-ups and single legged squats, she said. Finish your workout with uphill sprints.

Just be sure to work at your own fitness level. Listen to your body, check your heart rate and stay hydrated. And remember: the best time to exercise is in the morning!

Stefanie Fisher is a certified personal trainer and a former member of the German National Team of Olympic Weightlifting with 20 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is the owner of the Vancouver Adventure Boot Camp and outdoor fitness program for women. For more workout ideas, or to learn more about Adventure Boot Camp, contact Fisher at stefanie@vancouveradventurebootcamp.com or 360-823-9636.