Vita means life in Latin and parcours is a track or a course, in French. When forests bring out our appreciation of nature and combine it with the sports enthusiast in us, it gives birth to an enjoyable exercise regime outdoors
An outdoor fitness trail, vita parcours originated as a movement in Switzerland in the late 1960s and spread across Europe in the next decade. By the 1980s it faded in popularity as air-conditioned gyms with fancy equipment and membership packages stepped in as alternative pursuits, to micro-manage the crisis of our increasingly unhealthy modern lifestyles.
Half a century later now, during this COVID-19 lockdown, outdoor fitness trails are making a comeback, according to a recently published report in the New York Times. It says a Zurich-based sports club collaborated with an insurance group Vita and gave the world its first parcour in 1968 that helped people train in the woods with built-in exercise stations — such as bars, pulls-ups and benches for planks made from tree trunks and branches.
The free of cost parcours mushroomed as not just athletes or professionals but anyone who wished to up their strength level could use it by walking or running along a trail and picking up whatever they found en route to do some brief and focused exercises.
Now that the corona pandemic has enforced the closure of gyms and stadiums, and perhaps motivation has taken a dip with everybody locked in isolation in their homes, there can perhaps be no better mood up-lifter than nature. Many who have access to such open spaces have started using them for rebuilding strength and remaining flexible. The usual safety measures of our times (wearing masks, carrying sanitisers and a thorough bath after returning home) are a part ofcourse.
In India, many boutique hotels located near forest areas like Thekkady, Kodaikanal, Jim Corbett National Park have introduced nature trails dotted with a few ‘barriers’ like a ropeway or logs of wood used as steps to hop, step and jump over, an arching branch of tree to swing across a small stream or a fallen tree trunk to crawl under, for their guests.
“These are some enjoyable fit-paths that try to mix mobility and flexibility and challenge your agility,” says R Linga Bhaskar, a certified personal trainer of the American Council of Exercise, who conducts retreat camps in the Nilgiris. “They are not an alternative to a gym and cannot replace the whole-body exercise regimen. But yes, the outdoors with fresh air and cool breeze, chirping birds and colourful blooms offer a different level of pleasure only when you have an ideal temperature of 18 o 23 degrees C for the body to enjoy outdoor exercises,” he adds.
In a wooded landscape, the uneven surface under your feet helps to improve your balance and reflexes when you run, jump, squat, lunge or bend. “They help you to reconnect with the earth and make you feel well,” says Bhaskar. Surely something we all look forward to now.
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