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Restorative Outdoor Activities

With today’s fast pace of life, from looking after grandchildren to a busy work/life schedule, binging on the latest Netflix series or walking the dog around the local park (again) just doesn’t cut it when it comes to trying to restore some zen. Why not disconnect with your WhatsApp groups and steer away from early morning HIIT classes to enjoy some restorative outdoor activities.

Instead, how about Vinyasa Yoga on the shore of Lake Windermere or getting the blood pumping with a wild water swim in a remote plunge pool?

Research from the journal Scientific Reports recently found that people who spend just two hours a week or more outdoors reported a greater sense of wellbeing. And what’s more it is not just the fresh air, but green space that is also so good for our health. A recent report from Forestry England studies prove that being around trees improves mood and attention span as well as helping stress recovery. Read more in our Forest Therapy in the Lake District blog post.

Here we have chosen low impact activities that you can do in the great Lake District outdoors that deliver powerful restorative health benefits. 

Yoga by the Lake

The practise of yoga – a series of whole-body poses and stretches - is as much about breathing as it is stretching and flexing, and this takes practise. A holiday in the Lakes is just the place to slow down and make positive restorative habits.

The deep inhale yoga breath is energising, delivering much needed O2 to the body, and we know that that feeling of several deep lungs full of fresh Lake District air beats a flat white in its energy-boosting powers. That's why practising yoga outdoors is so restorative.

It is not just the fresh air that you breathe in but also the pace of your breath that is important in yoga for wellbeing. Soft soothing sounds of a natural landscape, such as water lapping on a lake shore, or the sound of a trickling stream, can evoke slower and deeper breathing and improved wellness as well.

When visiting the Lakes enjoy the benefits of outdoor yoga with a ‘Yoga by the Lake’ class from the wonderful Stride and Edge, on a Saturday morning in the stunning outdoor setting of Windermere Jetty. 

Walking for a Still Mind  

Today technology surrounds us, we're always ‘on’, which isn't always good for our mental wellbeing. Periods of lower levels of stimulation are vital for the brain to go through much needed restoration and repair.

We also spend less time outdoors, missing out on vital health benefits, like an immune system boost, mitigation against seasonal affective disorder as well as regular doses of vitamin D. Walking is the ideal way for stilling busy minds and restoring wellbeing.

There are the social benefits of walking outdoors too. Whilst today we are more connected than ever, for many a 5-hour walk with friends or family with no distractions is just what the doctor ordered to reconnect with loved ones.

Walking is also one of the very best ways of reconnecting with ourselves. Escaping on foot to a remote hamlet or a car-free part of the Lakes puts physical distance between you and your day-to-day schedules. 

On foot, you can lose yourself in places where there are few people and see views and experiences that only a select few experience.

Plus, here in the Lakes if you walk far enough, your WiFi and mobile phone signal may drop out, giving you valuable restorative breathing space. Read our blogs for some walking route inspiration: Top 4 Short Walks in the Lake District and Reach the Peaks from your Front Door.

18th century philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau was one of the first to suggest that it is easier to meditate when waking. “When I stop, I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.” The great Lake District poet William Wordsworth’s creativity was linked directly to the landscape and the activity of walking.

Wordsworth only wrote when walking, either in and around his home in Grasmere, or pacing his garden with his sister writing his stream of thoughts. 

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Stand-up Paddle Boarding is relatively new to the UK and the Hawaiin-esque surfboard with a paddle has taken off in a big way here in the Lake District. This is not least because it is so easy to do, but this is a very low impact sport that delivers big physical benefits, like boosting balance, strength and endurance as well as oozing cool. SUP boarding is an easy way to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors too, especially for anyone looking for something a bit more challenging than walking.

The trick to successful SUP boarding is to keep your legs apart for stability and to use your hips rather than your upper body to stabilise any wobbling. This is extremely grounding as it focuses your effort to your core, a vital part of a healthy body. You should also avoid staring at your feet, keeping your gaze forward to help with balance. Once you gain confident SUP boarding is about gliding along with your head up taking in the great outdoors. The silence and sense of calm will wash over you and the benefits are almost instant.

Before you get to touring on your board, your first paddle board lesson will involve picking up the basics and here in the Lake District there’s a choice of lakes that offer beginners classes on a shallow lake shore. Look up Lake District Paddle Boarding to book a class on one of the three major lakes; Windermere, Derwentwater and Coniston Water. It is a very easy sport and you’ll have mastered it after just one lesson. We’re pretty sure you’ll get hooked and SUP river tours are the next step once you’ve built up confidence on a lake. There are few outdoor experiences that outdo this. 

Wild Swimming

For those that are perhaps a bit braver, then explore the stunning Lake District’s famous landscape nose-to-water. Yes, we’re talking about wild swimming, and there’s nowhere better in the UK than here in the Lakes to have a go or to build on any experience.

Now is also an ideal time to try wild swimming as it is mid-season (May to September), the air temperature hasn’t started to drop yet and the rivers, tarns and lakes have been warming up since May. That said, the large lakes will still only be 16-18 degrees, making this a bracing but very restorative experience.

You can head out yourself for some wild swimming, as long as you are well prepared, or join the likes of Ambleside-based Swim the Lakes, who offer a range of wild swims that are a guided introduction to different types of wild swims, from plunge pool dips that will whet your appetite to longer swimming adventures.

If you’re having a go yourself, when deciding where to wild swim in the Lake District Grasmere and Rydal Water are nice and small for beginners. They offer shelter, are not too deep and are less intimidating than more challenging open water swims in the likes of Windermere.

If you fancy a walk and a dip, then a tarn plunge, such as Red Tarn, is just the ticket. For your very own water therapy, try a river pool where you can enjoy the pummelling benefits of cascading waterfalls. Read more on Where to Wild Swim in the Lake district.

The Lake District holds some of the finest water quality in the British Isles and after a few swims you will undoubtably catch the bug and be planning your next restorative wild swimming fix.