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The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

Posted On: 18.06.05

The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

Nowadays, it seems as though exercising for many of us means hitting the gym, While it's an ideal option during the cooler months, or in the sweltering heat of summer, there is  ample evidence that exercising outdoors, otherwise referred to as "green exercise", is better for you - both physically and mentally. 

Research shows that exercising outdoors can be associated with greater feelings of revitalization, energy boosts and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. 

According to Daryl Edwards in his article Primal Play, this idea isn't a new one. The healing power of nature has been "viewed as an essential factor in maintaining and restoring one's health". Moreover Edward suggests that, "movement outdoors is intrinsically tied to our humanity. For 99% of human history, not only have we lived off the land and sought nature for basic survival and health, but also for pleasure and physical activity too".

Here are 5 important effects of exercising alfresco - excepts from 'Primal Play':

1. You'll Boost Your Immune System - "Research shows that the percentage of green space in one's environment has a positive association with health. Being in nature is a great way to give your immune system a boost. Your body behaves differently when you’re in nature, and acts as a natural stimulus for your body to protect itself from disease. Green exercise is used to describe the additional effects of exercise outdoors over and above the physical activity act itself".

2. You'll Get A Boost Of Vitamin D - "Vitamin D deficiency is increasingly common, especially in young children, the elderly, and people who live in the northern hemisphere. Deficiency can lead to brittle bones, osteoporosis, and the bone disorder called rickets. Deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of autoimmune diseases, increased cancer risk, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and depression". By exercising outdoors, "every time the sun is shining and hitting exposed skin on your body, it’s triggering your body to produce more Vitamin D".

3. Burn More Calories - According to the article, "performing the same exercise outdoors is better for you than doing the same activity indoors". How is that possible you ask? In short, "working out in a climate-controlled environment does not supply the same stress to your body as working out in an environment that has high (or cold) temperatures and changing terrain which affects gait. Research from the University of Exeter has found that road runners burn more calories when running at the same speed than treadmill runners, mainly because of the wind resistance they encounter". 

4. Release More Feel-Good Hormones - How so you ask? "A study at the University of Queensland, Australia, found that those who exercised outdoors on a regular basis had higher levels of serotonin, a hormone that regulates mood, than those who workout mainly indoors. They also had higher levels of endorphins, the post-exercise rush that occurs after exercise when exercising outside, especially in green environments". When you exercise outdoors your body is releasing more feel-good hormones like dopamine.

5. Work Out Longer And Harder - For some, "working out indoors can lead to boredom and fatigue. Just think of running on a treadmill staring at the same point on the wall for miles at a time. By contrast, when you decide to exercise outdoors, you are seeing new people, new scenery and generally enjoying your time more. That means you are “nudged” to work out longer".

Quick Tips For Exercising Outdoors:

  • Sun protection. Be sure to wear SPF, suitable clothing, hat and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes.

  • Supportive walking or running shoes. Proper shoes can protect you from injury.

  • Hydrate. Don't forget to drink plenty of water. As a rule of thumb, sip 4 to 6 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes when exercising outside.

  • Another benefits of outdoor exercise is... it's usually free. All you need to get a fantastic workout is a safe park, track, lake, pathway, walking trail or lake  and a willingness to get out. Exercise can become a lot of fun if you involve family and friends. Consider going for walk or try a game of pickleball on our outdoor tennis courts instead of watching TV.   

Excerpts / Sources / Credit:

Daryl Edwards, Primal Play

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