For most of us, autumn still has that start-of-the-new-year feel. So it’s a great time to set fitness goals and get into healthy habits. Although the weather may be changing, it is far too early to abandon the outdoors and head to the nearest gym … or sofa … for comfort. There are plenty of ways to incorporate the natural environment into your fitness regime.

Here five ways to get fit outside in Ayrshire:

Nordic walking

HeraldScotland: Nordic Walking

This is rapidly gaining popularity as a form of exercise. Using walking poles burns through almost twice as many calories as walking. It gives both the upper and lower body a great workout, and reduces pressure on ankle, knee and hip joints. It can be done by almost anybody, almost anywhere and does not require expensive equipment or clothing – just a few specialist coaching sessions at the start to develop the correct pole placement so the technique provides the maximum benefit.

There are currently two classes every week, taking a route along Ayr beach. Find out more at www.glow-fit.co.uk/portfolio/karen-murrie/

Cycling

HeraldScotland: Cycling Ayrshire

If you haven’t been on the bike for a while, now would be good time to pump up the tyres and get back on the road. An ambitious plan to create Scotland’s first road cycling park is well under way with the development The Ayrshire Alps – a network of signed hill climbs in South Ayrshire and the north end of the Galloway Forest Park. The hill climbs give you a good cardiovascular workout without putting stress on joints. And the spectacular views and fresh air add the feel-good factor.

Information and maps can be found at ayrshirealps.org 

Find clubs with more information for beginners at www.ayrburners.org/friends/

Golf

HeraldScotland: King Robert the Bruce

King Robert the Bruce, Trump Turnberry

This is the best time of year to learn golf. A few lessons and sessions at a good driving range during the cooler months will get you set up for social games in the spring and summer season. Apart from the calorie burn of the walk – The King Robert The Bruce Course at Turnberry, for instance, measures around four miles - the swing gives the upper body and the gluteus maximus a good workout and increases flexibility, and regular play can help to counter poor posture developed over time during long commutes or years of office work. Like Nordic Walking, the key to enjoyment is getting a good start with lessons from a professional. But once mastered, miles of stunning Ayrshire countryside can become your regular gym.

Find out about the winter programme at Turnberry Golf Academy www.turnberry.co.uk/golf-academy.

Beach running

HeraldScotland: Beach Running

Spending time on a beach an invigorating experience that can lift the spirits under almost any circumstances. Add in a run and the endorphins start pumping too, making it even more beneficial. But there are other good reasons to swap the treadmill for the beach too. The soft surface acts like a cushion and replicates the kind of resistance provided by a cross-trainer - the softer the sand, or looser the pebble, the higher the resistance. The unpredictability of the loose surface forces feet and ankles to readjust and stabilise, making use of agonist and antagonist muscles. Footwear should be a cross country or trail trainer with a tougher sole. It’s best to ease your way into it and start with 15 minute run at low tide when the sand is smooth and packed. Maidens Beach is ideal – it has a mix of both pebble and sand as well as those inspiring views of Ailsa Craig and Culzean Castle.

Outdoor gym equipment

HeraldScotland: Outdoor Gym

If you can’t bear to leave the security of gym equipment but want to enjoy fresh air … you can combine the two at Prestwick’s brand new outdoor gym which has been installed thanks to efforts of North Prestwick Community Council. Among the facilities are a recumbent bike, a workout bench, a combined leg-raise and chest-dip apparatus, and a wheelchair-accessible hand bike, making the facility accessible to all regardless of fitness level or mobility. This is also a good one for parents … as it is on Prestwick beach right next to the children’s play area.