To elevate your exercise routine, head outside

Walking or hiking in a natural area may benefit your heart more than working out indoors.

For many people, summer's long days and warm weather make it a great time to exercise outdoors. And that just might be a great way to boost the rewards from your workout, says Dr. Edward Phillips, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.

"When you're moving your body, your heart, lungs, and muscles don't know or care where you are. But your mind does," says Dr. Phillips. And if you're exercising outdoors in a beautiful natural setting, you might be tempted to go a little farther than if you set out to walk for just 30 minutes around your neighborhood, he notes. "Some people say it's hard to rack up 7,000 steps a day walking a familiar route. But they often find they can go twice as far on a hike, especially if there's a nice vista at the destination," he says. If you choose a trail that includes some hills, which will force your heart to work harder, that will also increase your fitness.

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