Benefits to Working out Outdoors
Updated: Jan 25
There's something about the longer evenings and warmer days of summer that beckon us outside. Spending time outdoors can have significant benefits to our physical and mental health.
According to Your Brain on Nature, scientific studies have shown that natural environments can have remarkable benefits for human health. Natural environments are more likely to promote positive emotions; and viewing and walking in nature has been associated with heightened physical and mental energy.
Benefits to Working out Outdoors
Mother Nature provides powerful magic that can’t be captured at the gym. Blue skies, crashing waves and tree lined trails, all providing a number of benefits for our mind and body. We’re exploring some of the benefits to working out outdoors.
It Can Boost Your Mental Health
Mental health is part of the foundation to overall fitness. Studies show that exercising outdoors can help boost your overall state of mind. According to a 2021 study of more than 20,000 people, those who “exercise more, specifically when they embark on physical activities outdoors, experience less depression and anxiety than those who [don’t] exercise.”
Being outdoors when exercising is a natural antidepressant. Sunshine naturally increases serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood. Exercise itself produces endorphins, another feel-good hormone that boosts your mood and reduces pain.
You’ll Challenge Your Body and Mind in New Ways
Think of the difference between running on the gym treadmill in a temperature controlled room with its level belt, vs running on a mountain trail.
The changing terrain of a mountain trail with its roots and elevated ups and downs causes your body to work harder to sustain movement and keep you upright. Your mind is working on focusing to help your body adapt and avoid injury, like tripping over a rock.
This adjustment to terrain whether you are walking or running gives your body a harder workout. Wind resistance and changing temperatures can also play a role and give your body a harder workout.
When you exercise on a treadmill or other type of machine, you work the same muscles in the same way. Over time, too much repetitive motion can possibly lead to overuse injury, according to the American Council on Exercise.
With outdoor exercise, the constantly changing terrain works out different muscles in different ways which can “enhance the strength of your connective tissue, which may help you avoid certain injuries,” the council advises.
Not to take away from the benefits of working out with an exercise professional in a fitness facility, but including outdoor exercise to your overall exercise plan can save you money. All you need is a good pair of shoes and the correct clothing. No expensive in-home equipment needed.
Working out outdoors is also a great way to cross train. Walking, running, hiking and strength training are all ways to get in shape outdoors. For strength training find a local playground with pull up bars or a highschool track with bleachers. Think squats, push ups, pull ups and burpees. All can be done outdoors and provide great health benefits
It is Good For Your Immune System
Getting outdoors in the sunlight is a good way to get your dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, one of the main building blocks for strong bones. Weight bearing exercises also help with strong bones. This makes exercising outdoors a win-win.
It Can Be More Enjoyable
Research shows that if you like your exercise plan, you have a higher chance of sticking with it. Not everyone enjoys the gym. So find something you love so you can stick with it.
Consistency is the key. If walking around the block is more enjoyable than taking a kickbox class, do that. Start with one lap around and build from there. Before you know it, you may be walking 5 miles.
Tips For Starting an Outdoor Exercise Routine
If exercise has been on the backburner for a while or you have health issues,we can help you put together an outdoor fitness program that will meet your goals.Outdoor exercise can be adapted to anyone's level of fitness." Here are some tips to get you started:
Block out time for exercise. Schedule time for exercise on your calendar like you schedule a meeting with colleagues. It's easy to get caught up in your daily tasks and before you know it the day is gone. Schedule exercise until it becomes a routine. Remember it is a key factor in a healthy life. Try exercising in the morning. Your energy is higher, the air is generally cleaner, the temperature tends to be lower, and you’ll get to feel the post-workout benefits (less stress and a better mood) all day long.
Avoid temperature extremes. Although your body can adapt to colder or warmer weather, you should avoid exercising outside in extreme heat or cold.
Drink enough water. According to VeryWell Fit you should drink 8 oz of water 20 to 30 minutes prior to exercise. It’s important to stay hydrated. Remember that you can lose water through sweating even in cooler weather.
Get some good gear. There is a lot of great gear out there to keep you comfortable in different types of weather. Take advantage of the new technology in waterproof, breathable clothing material.
Make outdoor exercises part of your lifestyle. Park your car further away from the store. Walk instead of driving when you can. Take your family or friends along with you to make it more enjoyable.
At Couve Health, we are here to help you make exercise enjoyable and beneficial. Don't let pain prevent you from achieving your fitness goals. Reach out to us for advice on getting started.