Life is full of choices. When it comes to exercise your choices are plentiful. One of the most basic of those choices is a) are you going to get your exercise in the artificial confines of a gymnasium or b) are you going to ditch the gym and train in the great outdoors. Despite what many people believe, getting out of the gym may be one of the best thing you can do for your health. Here are 8 compelling reasons why:
1. Nature’s way
The very fact that you’re outdoors, soaking up the sun’s rays and enjoying the cooling effects of a slight breeze, rather than sweating it out under artificial light and an electric fan, has a feel good factor that is impossible to quantify. What scientists do know is that exercising outdoors lessens the incidence of post-work-out headaches, enhances endorphin release and improves cardiovascular fitness. Numerous studies have also shown that training outdoors results in less stress, reduced tension, feeling happier and having fewer sleep disturbances than people who do the same level of exercise in the gym. As a result, you’ll feel more mentally refreshed by being exposed to nature.
Fresh air can actually give you more energy. A 2009 study from the University of Rochester found that twenty minutes of training outside can rev you up as much as a cup of coffee. Connecting with nature is a far better option when we need a pick me up than drowning ourselves with caffeine.
To get a good cardiovascular work-out you have to cover some distance. That’s the one thing a gym doesn’t have. So they pack their facilities with treadmills, cycles and steppers designed to emulate the effects of covering distance. But they are simply not as good. In fact, a 1 mile run on a treadmill will burn 20% fewer calories than a real run in the real outdoors – and you’ll be staring at a brick wall the whole time!
3. Functional movement
Everything you do in a gym is a simulation of real movement. As a result, it’s not as good as the real thing. Exercising outdoors allows you to do the real thing, whether it’s dragging a tire up a hill or sprinting through the waves down at the beach. As a result, you’ll function better in your activity of everyday living.
4. Natural terrain
The natural terrain that you encounter outdoors, whether it’s at the beach, your local park or the kid’s adventure playground, presents a constant challenge to your body. The variety and constant changeability of what you encounter keeps your body guessing. One minute you’re running uphill, the next you’re jumping over a dead tree stump. The variety of angles that your body is forced to move through trains your body to be more resilient. As your body becomes more adaptable to different types of obstacles, you will greatly minimize injuries.
5. Vitamin D
Being outdoors in the sun, allows you to soak up Vitamin D. In the winter months, millions of people get little sunshine because the days are shorter and we tend to stay indoors. Vitamin D deficiency is increasingly common. Working out under the sun allows you to get that vital Vitamin D. The ultraviolet energy from the sun converts a form of cholesterol under the human skin into an inactive form of Vitamin D. The cholesterol under the skin is called 7-dehydrocholesterol . The inactive form of Vitamin D is then transferred to the liver and then the kidneys. It then undergoes several processes during which it is converted into the active form of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D regulates calcium absorption through the intestines. Deficiency in Vitamin D will result in poor bone health, including osteoporosis. Vitamin D improves protection against prostate cancer. Ongoing research studies suggest that Vitamin D may be linked to fewer cases of colon and breast cancer. Vitamin D also helps to regulate the symptoms of Type 1- Diabetes. Vitamin D, in conjunction with other key vitamins, improves serotonin hormone production in the brain. Seratonin is a chemical that regulates mood balance. Increased levels of serotonin in the brain include improved feelings of well being and happiness. Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression.
6. Improved focus and attention
A study out of the University of Illinois found that children with ADHD were able to concentrate better after a twenty minute walk in a park than after doing 30 minutes of indoor exercise. This study shows that the physical environment matters.
7. Greater likelihood to continue
Most people could probably afford to do a little bit more exercise. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines For Americans recommends that the average adult gets two hours of moderate exercise every week. Most people don’t achieve this because it’s too easy to skimp on workouts. However, a 2011 study out of the University of Melbourne found that exercising outdoors is a reinforcing behavior that trainers declared an intent to repeat the activity at a later date than more frequently than gym goers.
8. Faster healing and less pain
Recovering from injury will put a dampener on most fitness plans. The healing benefits of sunlight, though, will allow you to recover more quickly, leading to less down time and faster recuperation.
So far, the anti-gym option is looking quite attractive. How, though, can you drench up the motivation to keep the work-out fire burning when you’ve removed yourself from the naturally motivating gym environment? Glad you asked;
Team Up: Asking your bestie to be your work-out buddy is a smart move. Just knowing that she’ll be waiting is a great motivator to get you up and on the way. During the work-out you’ll be able to push each other to be your best.
Boot-Camp It: Outdoor Group Fitness classes tick all of the boxes – you’re exercising in the great outdoors, you’re challenged at your level, you’ve got your peers and a qualified trainer to motivate and push you and you’ll even get nutritional guidance.
Hi there, I’m James, a weightlifting nerd and enthusiast. I love figuring out better ways to hack the system when it comes to efficient and effective weightlifting and fitness. I am always tweaking my workouts for optimal results and love writing about my experiences. If you’d like to learn more about me and what I do check out my website where I blog about all things fitness related.