Exercise is great. Being in nature is great. Is it any surprise that exercising outside is a combination for success?
From time to time, your regular fitness regimes can get a bit boring and repetitive – especially if you’ve been using a home gym for working out during the pandemic. Taking the weights outdoors or hitting the trails rather than the treadmill can give you the boost you need to keep pushing to get the most from your workout.
Getting out into nature and the great outdoors isn’t just good for your physical health, it’s great for your mental wellbeing as well.
Natural environments can be an excellent relief for stress. It’s been shown by self-reported feelings by participants in studies as well as through measuring physiological indicators of stress. The hormone Cortisol (the “fight or flight” hormone) was reduced even more by a walk in the park than when compared to a walk through an urban setting.
Research has also shown that regular engagement with natural environments can be important in helping treat anxiety and depression. Exercise is also an important part of mental health management so combining them both is a great idea.
But even if you’re not looking to reduce stress or cope with anxiety better, spending time in the great outdoors can help boost your general mood.
Nature has lots of ways to make us feel better.
Spending time working out in the sunshine, is a great way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. And most of us struggle to get enough – it’s a very common deficiency.
Vitamin D is also important for a healthy immune system to fight off disease and infection. Plantlife in forests and woodlands often produces phytoncides (source), an organic compound that boosts our white blood cell production.
Running through a forest rather than on a treadmill gives us a chance to breathe in these immune-boosting compounds and enjoy vitamin D from the sun’s rays which are great for our overall health and wellbeing.
Change is Good
Working out in the outdoors is less predictable than in the gym. Your environment is constantly changing and different every day. That helps keep your spirits up and makes exercising easier.
It can also help with working out a variety of muscles (remember those stabilizer muscles we never think of?) through altering terrain. Treadmills can have their incline adjusted to replicate running outdoors, but nothing beats the real thing. A lot of treadmills don’t have a decline feature and they can’t offer a function to simulate the action of turning for your body. Anyone who knows a regular hiker can see the evidence of just how great an exercise it is for your calves.
Running on trails is more exciting and better for your exercising indoors, on a treadmill in the same room day after day.
Clean, fresh air
Let’s be honest – gyms smell. It’s understandable, you’ve got a room of people pushing themselves as hard as they can. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break from the odors and enjoy some fresh air when you’re exercising?
Air quality in gyms isn’t great either. Research has shown that indoor fitness centers can have high levels of airborne dust and carbon dioxide (source). Although for some people this might not be a problem if you have respiratory difficulties like asthma you might find that exercising outdoors helps you breathe easier.
So why not try going for a hike or cycling this weekend? Maybe you could take your yoga routine outside in the morning? Or even try wild swimming (if you’re brave enough to face the cold waters!).
Whatever you plan to do, spending time in the great outdoors and exercising is a fantastic way to give yourself an extra little health boost – so give it a go!