When many people think of exercise, they think of hitting the gym. While that may seem like the only practical option during the cold, snowy winter months, or during the blistering heat of summer, there is overwhelming evidence that exercising outdoors, otherwise referred to as green exercise, is better for you – both physically and mentally.
Movement outdoors is tied to our humanity. For 99% of human history, not only have we lived off the land and sought nature for basic survival and health, but also for pleasure and physical activity too.
We didn’t always have the modern conveniences of today to fall back on. Look at the old farmers for example. They worked hard outdoors all day long. Many lived long lives and they were strong as an ox.
Here Are The Five Benefits Of Outdoor Exercise.
#1: YOU’LL BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Take the opportunity to go outside to train. Research shows that the percentage of green space in one’s environment has a positive association with health.
Being in nature is a great way to give your immune system a boost. Your body behaves differently when you’re in nature, and acts as a natural stimulus for your body to protect itself from disease. Green exercise is used to describe the additional effects of exercise outdoors over and above the physical activity act itself.
Research tells us the impact that fresh air, grass, trees and the colors of the natural environment have on mental health and physical well-being.
Other research highlights that an average of 30 minutes spent in nature leads to increased physical activity and lower prevalence of high blood pressure and depression.
Gyms and studio fitness classes can be expensive, but exercising doesn’t have to be.
#2: YOU’LL GET A BURST OF VITAMIN D
Yes, going for some exercise in the sun is an excellent way to get some Vitamin D.
It’s one reason why people who seem to spend so much time outdoors appear to be so healthy. Every time the sun is shining and hitting exposed skin on your body, it’s triggering your body to produce more Vitamin D. Bear in mind that if you live north of San Francisco, California, or south of Melbourne, Australia, then you will not get adequate Vitamin D exposure during winter.
Vitamin D deficiency is increasingly common, especially in young children, the elderly, and people who live in the northern hemisphere.
Deficiency can lead to brittle bones, osteoporosis, and the bone disorder called rickets. Deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of autoimmune diseases, increased cancer risk, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and depression.
#3: YOU’LL BURN MORE CALORIES
Performing the same exercise outdoors is better for you than doing the same activity indoors. That may sound counter-intuitive – how is that possible? – until you consider that working out in a climate-controlled environment does not supply the same stress to your body as working out in an environment that has high (or cold) temperatures and changing terrain which affects gait.
Research from the University of Exeter has found that road runners burn more calories when running at the same speed than treadmill runners, mainly because of the wind resistance they encounter
Who needs the gym when you have the great outdoors?
#4: YOU’LL RELEASE MORE FEEL-GOOD HORMONES
Want to get a big smile on your face? Get some exercise outdoors. There’s a scientific reason why people feel so energized and full of enthusiasm after exercising outdoors – your body is releasing feel-good hormones like dopamine.
A study at the University of Queensland, Australia, found that those who exercised outdoors on a regular basis had higher levels of serotonin, a hormone that regulates mood, than those who workout mainly indoors. They also had higher levels of endorphins, the post-exercise rush that occurs after exercise when exercising outside, especially in green environments.
#5: YOU’LL WORK OUT LONGER AND HARDER
Working out indoors can lead to boredom and fatigue. Just think of running on a treadmill staring at the same point on the wall for miles at a time. By contrast, when you decide to exercise outdoors, you are seeing new people, new scenery and generally enjoying your time more. That means you are “nudged” to work out longer.
One research study asked people to go for on two walks – one indoor, one outdoors – and then compared the responses. Guess which walk, on average, lasted longer? During self-paced walking outdoors, individuals walk faster and work harder, but report lower perceived exertion compared to indoors treadmill-based walking
Research in older adults finds that you are more likely to do more physical activity outdoors than indoors because the environment is more stimulating and leads to more enjoyment. You feel more energetic and enthusiastic, so you work out longer and harder, with a decrease in levels of tension or anger.
Here are a few more tips to help you find painless ways to stay fit, indoors and outdoors:
All rise! The average person burns 100 calories per hour while sitting and 140 per hour while standing. Get on your feet two hours a day while you work and you could drop 6 pounds over the course of a year. Stand while you talk on the phone and set up an area where you can work in a standing position (great for people with back pain!).
- Take the stairs, not the elevator A 130-pound woman will burn nearly 20 calories each time she goes up and down the stairs. Do it all day watch how quickly those add up!
- Dust while you talk on the phone. Get on your feet two hours a day while you work and you could drop 6 pounds over the course of a year.
- Lose the remote. Get up to change the channel! And while you’re up grab some weights for a set of bicep curls or shoulder presses. You can work through a full strength training routine in an hour if you do a set during each commercial.
- Park so you have to walk. Don’t park your car in the closest spot to where you have to go, try and park as far as possible so you have to move your body as much as you can.
- Walk and talk! Catch up on phone calls while your take a walk.
Be creative! Instead of thinking of all the ways you don’t have time to exercise, make it a game to see how many ways you can carve out time for little bouts of exercise. Lose your all or nothing mindset and look at exercise as a daily accumulation of activity.
Remember, to lose weight you still need to take a look at your diet and try to eliminate excess calories, especially those that come from junk. Your goal isn’t difficult cutting 200-300 calories from your daily diet can be easy if you choose foods that you won’t miss too much. Think about switching from a can a soda every afternoon to unsweetened iced tea or a flavored sparkling water. But remember, don’t cut something that you look forward to everyday (for me cutting cream in my coffee would be a deal breaker), instead look for little changes you can make that won’t make a big difference in the foods your enjoy.
There’s no wrong way to do it, as long as you’re outside and having fun.