The Benefits of Exercising Outdoors
One of the best ways to keep yourself healthy is by getting active and exercising. Fortunately, you do not have to be a fitness expert to get active. There are different types of physical activity that allow you to choose an activity that best suits your fitness level. Whether you want to lift weights, stick to cardio, do yoga, or participate in class exercises, you are bound to find a physical activity fit for you. Many of these activities are done indoors. Naturally, people go to the gym to get active. After all, gyms have all the necessary equipment to ensure you have a good workout, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage in outdoor exercise from time to time.
Exercising outdoors has numerous health benefits that you cannot find exercising indoors. Exercising provides you with several benefits for your physical and mental on its own, but when you take your workout outside, you put yourself in a position to exponentially increase these benefits. There are many factors that lead to an increase in benefits during an outdoor workout, from fresh air to sunlight.
Fitness Nation encourages everyone to get up and get active. Regardless of if you are a fitness expert or just beginning your fitness journey, there are workouts and activities for you. If your resources are limited, exercising outdoors can provide you with countless benefits.
Boosts Mental Health
We have spoken time and time again about the mental health benefits of exercising. When you exercise, your body releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins. This chemical induces feelings of euphoria and happiness and elevates your mood. Endorphins naturally reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Even the lightest form of exercise prompts your body to release these chemicals. However, spending time outside can increase these benefits.
Exercising outdoors, referred to as green exercise, puts you in direct contact with sunlight. Studies have shown that people’s brains have higher levels of serotonin on bright and sunny days. Serotonin is the body’s natural mood stabilizer. It helps reduce your symptoms of depression and anxiety. Sunlight also increases your vitamin D intake. Vitamin D has proven to be an effective way of enhancing your mood. As you can see, engaging in an outdoor activity can drastically improve the mental health benefits of exercise.
Challenges Your Body
When you work out in a gym or other indoor facility, you’re likely in a climate-controlled environment with air conditioning and more. While there is nothing wrong with working out in the AC, exercising outside challenges your body in ways indoor workouts cannot.
When you are active outdoors, whether running, walking, hiking, or biking, you put your body in the elements. The environment around you is always changing. Even slight changes, such as inclines, bumps, holes, or obstacles, force you to adapt and work harder. Even changes in the weather, such as the heat and breezes, can increase the difficulty of your workout.
Much like exercise improves your mental health, it also relieves stress. Exercise naturally releases norepinephrine, which helps reverse the damage stress does to your brain. This hormone also helps boost your mood and improve cognition. Norepinephrine forces your central nervous system and sympathetic nervous system to work together, which helps you manage and respond to stress more efficiently.
Spending time outside in nature can also help reduce your stress. In a Japanese study that centered around the effects of spending time in a forest environment or forest bathing, known as Shinrin-yoku, researchers discovered that even spending a short period outdoors could reduce your cortisol levels. Cortisol is the chemical found in your body that causes stress. By exercising outdoors, you can relieve your stress, lower your blood pressure, and prioritize your physical health.
Access to Cleaner Air
Earlier, we mentioned that when you work out indoors, you exercise in circulated air. However, when you do an outdoor exercise, you are breathing in much cleaner, fresher air than you would by doing a physical activity indoors. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air may be more polluted than outdoor air, even in large metropolitan areas. By taking your workout outside, you protect yourself from the pollutants in indoor air while allowing your lungs to breathe in fresh air.
As you can imagine, you don’t have to go very far to exercise outdoors. All most people need to do is step out of their front door, and they’re ready to go. Even if you do not have the space to exercise, you probably do not have to go far to find an open area to exercise. You won’t have to deal with traffic, look for a parking space, go into a crowded locker room, or wait to use a machine. There are plenty of parks, bike trails, hiking trails, and much more available to you. Additionally, you also do not need much equipment either, saving you time and money.
Burns More Calories
Earlier, we discussed how exercising outside gives you a harder workout than inside. Unsurprisingly, this also means you will likely burn much more calories. Your body has to work harder to adjust to the changing terrain and the changing weather. Your muscles have to work much harder to complete movements you could do with ease in a gym. The harder your body works, the more calories you will burn.
Exercise has countless mental health benefits, along with physical benefits. We already discussed how exercising outside can improve your symptoms of depression and anxiety and relieve stress. However, it can also have an impact on your overall self-esteem. Exercise improves self-esteem by helping you lose weight, tone your body, build muscle, and improve your endurance. However, when you exercise outside, you get to experience these benefits more often.
Research has found that even spending as little as five minutes exercising outside can improve your self-esteem. Being out near greenery or watery features boosts this effect. Low-to-moderate exercises, such as walking, cycling, fishing, and gardening, lead to greater improvements in one’s self-esteem. By taking your workout outdoors, you can enhance the self-esteem boosting effects of exercise.
Exercising is vital when it comes to improving your health, both mental and physical. While all exercise is good, taking it outside can introduce you to benefits you cannot experience indoors. You don’t have to move all your workouts outside, though. Mixing in a blend of outdoor exercises with workouts in the gym gives you the best of both worlds. Here at Fitness Nation, we want everyone to stay active to maintain their health.