Spring is here, summer is coming, and the outdoors is calling. This is such a great time of year because, interspersed with colder days and even snow (for some of us), the promise of warmer weather is in the air. Spring also signals newness – gardens are planted, flowers begin to bloom, birds and wildlife return with offspring in tow. There is a sense of possibility in the air.
With all of that going on, lots of us find ourselves longing to be outside. According to the latest research, there are lots of good reasons to do that. So, to inspire you along those lines, here are some findings on the benefits and rewards that outdoor exercise gives us.
- It’s free! You don’t need a membership to join, and it’s accessible by simply stepping out your front door. Plus, it’s available anywhere at any time. You don’t have to drive to the gym, or work around a class schedule. One of my favorite ways to see a city when I travel is to put on my running shoes and go for a run. Obviously, I check out a route before and make sure the area is safe, but that’s it. I have had some of my best experiences in new places this way.
- Research studies suggest that we work harder, expending more energy and therefore calories when we exercise outdoors as opposed to, say, a treadmill or stationary bike. Changes in terrain, wind resistance, running uphill or down – these factors all force our body to adapt, resulting in greater energy demands. If your time is limited and you want to burn more calories, exercising outdoors is the way to do it.
- It’s more fun. Studies have been done in which volunteers went for two walks for the same time or distance — one inside, on a treadmill or a track, the other outside. In virtually all instances, the participants reported enjoying the outside activity more. Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments seemed to produce greater feelings of vitality and wellbeing, and decreases in tension, anger, and depression. Volunteers also reported greater energy and satisfaction with the outdoor activity, and an associated desire to repeat the activity again.
- It’s good for your mind. Being outside in nature gives you changing scenery that is stimulating mentally, as well as motivating. Whether you work out at home or in a gym, indoor scenery is not going to vary much. Outdoor activity wakes up your body and your mind. It’s simply more interesting, which gives your brain a workout, too.
- We’ve heard this a million times and it’s true – Sunshine, light and fresh air are good for you! Sunlight is known as a mood booster, and the vitamin D you get is a bonus. It makes your bones stronger and supports your immune system. Vitamin D obtained from moderate exposure to the sun is considered the best source for the human body. Also, if you are going to be outdoors for any length of time, you need sunscreen with a high SPF, and a hat. Really, what’s better, the AC blasting at the gym or the smell of nature and clean air?
Remember biking around the neighborhood or exploring parts unknown when you were a kid? If you’ve ever had the experience of running on a beach, or skiing down a mountain in bracing cold air, you know how much fun the outdoors can be. It’s play. If you find your workouts have gotten stale, or you’ve been getting bored with the indoor track, take your workouts outside. You may discover a whole new world.