UNEARTH THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISING OUTDOORS: WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE YOUR WORKOUT TO NATURE
Are you a gym junkie, addicted to traditional weights sessions?
Do you prefer the thrill of aerobic classes held within the safety and stability of a fitness center?
Have you wondered about the benefits of changing tact? Of entering the great outdoors to boost your health instead of sticking to the indoors?
Great! There are many perks to embracing open-air exercise! In fact, exercising outside has unique benefits. Ways of improving your well-being that you may not have considered before.
From improved mental health and physical strength to switching up the way we get fit altogether —this blog post will explain why taking your workouts outdoors can be so rewarding. Let’s discover the surprising health benefits of working out al fresco!
The mental health benefits of exercising outdoors
We all know that engaging in regular exercise is essential for physical health. We also have experienced the lovely hit of endorphins that accompanies a challenging session. But outdoor exercise may support better mental health too.
Research published in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being compared the effects of indoor and outdoor physical activity on mental health. The authors found that outdoor exercise promoted “large or moderate effects… for anxiety, fatigue, positive affect and visor, and a small effect for depression”.
This may be partly due to the production of Vitamin D that accompanies exposure to sunlight. Research has shown that a sufficient vitamin D level is key to mental health. For example, vitamin D deficiency is super common in people suffering from severe mental illness. This is worrisome because vitamin D insufficiency is estimated to affect a staggering 40.9% of people in the USA!
But, the benefits appear greater than for depression alone. The benefits of outdoor exercise may reduce anxiety, anger, and hostility and boost energy and mood.
Outdoor exercise allows us to enjoy the subtleties we often miss in everyday life: natural scents and sights that may calm our minds and provide peace and tranquility. This might boost your inspiration and motivation and provide a much-needed distraction from everyday concerns.
The physical health benefits of exercising outdoors
Physical exercise in the great outdoors can have numerous health benefits that are difficult to replicate indoors. Some are surprising!
The study, Differences in physical fitness among indoor and outdoor elite male soccer players, found that indoor soccer players had higher body fat percentages and lower stats in the vertical jump and half-squat power. The authors concluded, “This should give [indoor soccer] players a disadvantage during soccer game actions.” This again may point to the importance of vitamin D.
As the article Sports Health Benefits of Vitamin D says, raising vitamin D levels:
— boosts muscle protein synthesis
— increases ATP concentration
— elevates jump height, power, and velocity
— increases exercise capacity
— promotes physical performance
— diminishes muscle protein degeneration
— can reverse muscle pain
The “sunshine vitamin” plays a key role in physical fitness and performance.
Many people also find exercising outdoors in the fresh air and natural scenery motivating. There’s nothing like the great outdoors for inspiring action (and, as it turns out, a stronger, fitter physique)!
The benefits for sounder sleep associated with exercising outdoors
Are you one of the millions of people who struggle to sleep as well as they should?
Do you feel sleepy when you need to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed?
Outdoor exercise might be the key: killing two birds with one stone.
Day-time exercise has been shown to increase sleep efficiency — a measure of how well someone sleeps during a given period of time.
For example, if you go to bed at 10:00 PM and wake up at 6:00 AM, you have spent eight hours in bed. If you spend 7.5 hours asleep during that period, your sleep efficiency would be 93.75% (7.5 hours sleep divided by eight hours in bed).
A sleep efficiency of around 85% is generally considered normal.
Plus, exposure to morning light can stabilize the circadian rhythm, our 24-7 biological clock. This may encourage sounder nighttime slumber.
So, exercise, particularly in the AM, might contribute to deeper, more restorative sleep.
Tip: To learn how slumber boosts your well-being, read our article, 7 Reasons Why Sleep Is Important For Your Health.
Outdoor exercise can break up a monotonous routine
Outdoor exercise can be an excellent way to break up a monotonous routine. Whether running, biking, hiking, swimming, or yoga, plenty of different activities can be enjoyed outside.
Being in nature allows you to disconnect from technology and temporarily relieve everyday pressures. The space allows you to reconnect with yourself and promote peace and balance. It provides greater space than in cramped gym environments; this allows for a greater sense of freedom of movement.
Outdoor physical activity also offers more varied surfaces, such as sand, grass, gravel, or even water which helps develop all-around strength by engaging different muscle groups. Naturally, without the need for a set muscle-focused routine.
Engaging in different activities outside can also challenge us in ways that indoor exercises don’t always allow. This can push us from our comfort zones, so we don’t become bored with the same old routine.
Outdoor exercise is an excellent way to shake up a monotonous practice and simultaneously reap mental and physical health benefits! So grab your trainers or bathing suit and head outside — you might be surprised about the great health benefits that await!
The outdoor exercise takeaway
Outdoor exercise is a powerful addition to any fitness regime. It’s surprising, and numerous mental and physical health benefits cannot be as easily matched indoors.
From the potential to ease mental illness and improve mood, from calming anger to elevating your energy, to helping you build a fitter, stronger body, there are ample benefits to be gained by physical activity enjoyed in nature’s beauty.
Al fresco-style exercise is also a great way to reconnect with nature and yourself. It can unplug you — at least temporarily — from the daily grind and life’s monotony to provide solace and peace.
When you think about it, this is the unsurprising part. The part we know deep down inside, even when we’ve consciously forgotten.
Is it time you discovered the benefits of outdoor exercise for yourself?