Now don’t get us wrong: we don’t have anything against going to the gym.
But there’s something to be said about their air-conditioned, machine-ridden, sanitized environment, especially when you stack it up against fresh air, a cool (or warm) breeze, the feeling of the earth between your toes, warm sunshine on your face…
Granted, nasty weather will push even the most vigilant outdoor-enthusiast into a gym. But lets take a closer look at some of the obvious (and a few not-so-obvious) benefits to exercising outside.
1. Sharp increase in psychological health, including bolstered mood and increased self-esteem.
This study released in Extreme Physiology and Medicine caught our attention. A team of researchers
from the University of Essex researched the many ways outdoor exercise, otherwise referred to as “green exercise,” has a positive impact on physical as well as psychological health. Through a series of systematic studies comparing outdoor exercise to indoor exercise, it was found that all types of outdoor exercise in a natural and green environment positively impacted mood and self-esteem.
In case you didn’t catch that, the study said ALL types of outdoor exercise. And the most amazing part? The largest impact on psychological health was observed within as little as the first 5 minutes!
2. Gifts That Only Mother Nature Can Give
Sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight. Perhaps its most vital function is the regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, and facilitating normal immune system function. Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth. There are undeniable links between vitamin D deficiency and depression/anxiety. Researches are even investigating the
connection between inadequate vitamin D and obesity.
The good news? Your body produces vitamin D naturally when it is directly exposed to sunlight, and a little bit goes a long way. Even just 10 minutes of midday, pre-sunscreen sun exposure will boost your vitamin D levels tremendously!
3. Better Quality Workouts
This one may seem a bit obvious, but it’s important enough that we want to mention it. We all know that feeling – you’re doing cardio on a treadmill or elliptical, or lifting weights, or enjoying a group cycling class, and everywhere you look you see everyone else. Most gyms are covered in mirrors, which is great for checking proper posture, but terrible for being connected to your workout. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to spend copious amounts of time comparing yourself to others.
Yoga in the park, a run along a forested trail, a challenging cycling route outdoors – even a simple walk around your neighborhood provides a focused, meditative state that no gym can replicate. Try switching up your workout routine once a week, and do something outside instead. You may walk twice as fast, or run twice as far, or bike faster up that big hill. Everyone is different, but we bet you’ll notice a difference in your ability to connect to yourself and therefore, be able to focus on your actual workout (rather than be distracted by other people).
4. Burn More Calories
Working out on unpredictable terrain and using unconventional training equipment (running barefoot, for example) can help you recruit more muscles. For instance, running downhill provides different stresses to the legs and is a movement that isn’t easily replicated on a treadmill. Also consider how natural obstacles you may encounter on your path will require your mind and your sense to kick into gear – a compelling benefit lacking in indoor workouts. All of this can enable you to exercise longer with greater joy, helping your burn more calories!
Are you interested in incorporating more outdoor workouts into your routine?
Get connected to our thriving community today:
Join us on Saturday September 24th for the Owensboro 5K Health Run. All runners, joggers, walkers, and crawlers are welcome!
Keep your eye out for our next Run For God series as well. Started over 6 years ago, Run for God is a Bible study that parallels faith and endurance. It’s goal is to take those who’ve never run to their very first 5K, while relating the great sport of running to your walk with Christ. We’re currently finishing up our summer program (culminating in the Owensboro 5K Health Run!), and by popular demand we’ll definitely be starting another series in the future. Stay tuned!