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story.lead_photo.caption Emmanuel Eyiuche does the Staircase Squat Jump on wide stone steps next to Two Rivers Bridge in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

Arkansas in October is one of the most beautiful places on earth. As the leaves succumb to chlorophyll breakdown, The Natural State flexes its botanical muscle, inviting inhabitants to enjoy the amazing foliage artwork across the countryside.

It is truly a gift to be thankful for, and one that presents an incredible opportunity for outdoor exercise. This week, I'll present a few tips for those looking to enjoy this fall through outdoor experience, physical activity and family fun. Plus, I'll share an exercise that fits perfectly within an outdoor workout program.

Let's start with some of the basic activities that define Arkansas outdoors in the fall.

Hunting and fishing might not seem like physical activity opportunities, but they most certainly are. Quail hunters can spend hours walking up and down hedgerows searching for that perfect covey to scare up.

Fly fishermen are in constant movement as they battle the current and reel in the occasional brown trout. In fact, the average adult can burn up to 420 calories an hour by simply wading the stream and casting their line.

For those more interested in observing wildlife and nature, there are plenty of options. Bird watching, hiking, biking and walking are all excellent options for enjoying the foliage and wildlife. Depending on the rate of movement and terrain, the caloric burn for this group of activities ranges between 200 and 800 calories per hour.

This could surprise some people, but motorcycling burns two to three times more calories than sitting on the couch. Even though it seems like a passive activity, there are many little movements that occur during a ride. The core muscles are active, the arms and shoulders work to steer the bike, and the legs are constantly gripping the seat. It is a great way to see the historic Pig Trail Scenic Byway, a 24-mile ride through the Ozark Mountains that is listed by USA Today as the No. 2 best ride in America.

Of course, many people prefer to stay put and enjoy their communities and parks, too. There are lots of structures on public property you can use to create a workout or burn a few calories. One common structure is the staircase. Staircases provide a stable foundation for all kinds of exercises and are usually pretty easy to access and use -- because most people avoid them.

This week's exercise is designed around the use of a staircase, as the little elevation changes help to soften the landing and create a little extra challenge. The Staircase Squat Jump is appropriate for those with exercise experience but should be avoided if knee problems are present.

1. Find a nice tall staircase, ideally 40 to 50 steps total. Stand at the bottom of the staircase, but don't hold either handrail.

2. Widen your stance so your feet are shoulder-width apart.

3. Squat down and jump up with both feet onto the first step.

4. Immediately squat down again and jump to the second step.

5. Continue until you reach the top. Perform four or five "laps" by going up and back down.

The big takeaway for this week is to get outside and appreciate the natural beauty of Arkansas. Try something new and get out of the routine. Lord knows we all need time outside the house, and this is the perfect time of year to do just that. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

vballtop@aol.com

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