I love exercising outdoors. Since I moved to Tel Aviv, I haven’t been in a gym or studio. I run, walk and practice yoga outdoors. Preferably with a view on the Mediterranean Sea. It makes me feel good and I feel energized afterwards, especially after sitting inside working at my desk all day long.
Research suggests that outdoor exercise might have even more health benefits than a trip to the gym. Here’s some of the best benefits of working out outdoors.
Increased energy levels & revitalization
Exercise can be just as good for our brains and our minds as it is for our bodies. Getting outside and exercising in nature might amplify the benefits. A research team from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry analysed 11 trials including more than 800 adults and found than outdoor exercise was associated with increased energy and revitalization (www.foxnews.com/health/2015/03/25/5-unexpected-benefits-exercising-outdoors/).
Exercise itself will surely revitalize you when you’re feeling sluggish, but the fresh air can add up to the effect. A 2009 study from the University of Rochester found that 20 minutes outside can fire you up as much as a cup of coffee, The Telegraph reported. So instead of reaching for a cup of coffee again, it might be a good idea to get energized by getting your butt outdoors.
Decreased levels of stress and anxiety
Exercising outdoors decreases levels of stress and anxiety to a greater degree than working out indoors. Studies by researchers in England and Sweden have found that joggers who exercise in a natural green setting with trees, foliage and landscape views feel more restored and less anxious, angry and depressed than those who burn the same amount of calories in gyms or other urban settings (www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1680&page=2). A 2008 study with nearly 2000 participants found that outdoor physical activity has a 50% greater positive effect on mental health than going to the gym. The researchers, from Glasgow University, found that walking, running, biking and other outdoor activities through green space lowered stress, The Telegraph reported.
Improved focus & attention
Being in the outdoors and away from our busy lifestyle and technology gives us a more focused mindset. We get the chance to leave behind our cell phones and get a break from the stress of the daily life. Physical environment matters. A small study from the University of Illinois found that kids with ADHD were able to concentrate better after a 20-minute walk in the park rather than a walk through city or neighbourhood streets (www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/23/outdoor-exercise-health-benefits_n_1616467.html).
We know how important vitamin D is for our health. Vitamin D is linked to prevention of cancer, hormonal problems, obesity and inflammation and it boosts our immune system (www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1680&page=2). Also, vitamin D has a positive effect on our mood. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, so spending time outside helps us increase our vitamin D intake. In addition, exposure to sunlight during the day can help you sleep better at night and increase production of endorphins, the hormones that make you feel good.
Increased quality of sleep
Being in a natural setting helps us increase the quality of our sleep (http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1680&page=2). Studies show that natural sunlight helps set the body’s internal clock that tells us when to eat and sleep, and normalizes functions that occur at specific times of the day. A good quality of sleep is very important for our health.
Boost to our self-esteem
Working out outdoors is more psychologically pleasing than working out indoors. According to New York times those who took their physical activity outdoors ranked higher on measures of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem in comparison to those who worked out inside. You don’t have to go all out; researchers from the University of Essex found that low-intensity exercise had the biggest positive effects (www.foxnews.com/health/2015/03/25/5-unexpected-benefits-exercising-outdoors/).
You’re more likely to keep up the good work
People who exercise outside tend to stick with their exercise programs more consistently than those who train indoors, according to a study done in 2004. It hasn’t been established yet why exercising outside might inspire greater commitment to an exercise program, but moving their routines outside could help reluctant or inconsistent exercisers (well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/the-benefits-of-exercising-outdoors/). This might have something to do with participant reporting enjoying their workouts more when done outside instead of in a closed up space (www.foxnews.com/health/2015/03/25/5-unexpected-benefits-exercising-outdoors/).
Finding an exercise habit you enjoy can make it easier to come back and improves the chances of sticking with a program. Improving the likelihood that you’ll engage in regular physical activity over the long-term is very important.
Increased energy expenditure
For runners, the energy expended while running outdoors is higher than when running indoors. This is because of outdoor obstacles such as wind and changes in terrain which cause you to expend more than you would by running at the same speed with the same resistance and the same incline that you would on a treadmill (www.unh.edu/healthyunh/blog/2013/07/benefits-exercising-outdoors). Also, outdoor exercise tends to be more strenuous than the indoor version (well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/the-benefits-of-exercising-outdoors/).The fresh air, sunlight and scenery can inspire more activity, especially when compared to indoor spaces. This extra movement adds up.
Try to make exercising a habit. It can be a run, a good walk in the morning or a workout in the park, as long as you do it regularly. Commit to being outdoors, no matter the weather. When you dress properly, you can exercise outdoors in rain or shine, hot or cold.
A few things to keep in mind though when working out outside;
- When working out in the daytime in the sun, wear sunscrean and cover up if needed;
- Air pollution and other environmental factors might trigger asthma and other allergies;
- Extreme heat or cold might of course pose difficulties. Be aware of symptoms of dehydration and heat exhaustion and hypothermia on the other hand.
Image courtesy of Nenetu at freedigitalphotos.net