While the gym might seem the obvious place to go and exercise, multiple studies have shown that outdoor fitness benefits both your body and mind in a more powerful way.
Outdoor exercise, also known as ‘green exercise’, not only shapes your body, but also increases your energy and happiness levels. It boosts your self-esteem and improves your sleep.
It leaves you re-energised and more focused.
And here comes the best one: exercising outdoors makes you work out harder!
Read on to explore the benefits of green exercise and get ready to reap the rewards for yourself.
1. Outdoor Exercise Makes You Work Out Harder
When you exercise outdoors, the nature presents you with more challenges than a predictable gym environment. Difficult terrain and uneven surface constantly challenge your balance and this improves the strength of your connective tissue. Good balance and strong connective tissue will help you prevent injuries in the future.
Unexpected changes in the environment provoke adjustments in your movement direction and speed. This significantly enhances your agility and reaction time.
Working against the wind means working against additional resistance and this burns additional calories. Wind also cools you down, which changes the level of your perceived exertion. In other words, you don’t sweat and overheat as much as you would do in the gym, so you push yourself harder.
In effect you burn even more calories.
Wind resistance helps you burn more calories
2. Outdoor Exercise Is More Stimulating
Do you know anyone who regularly walks for 30 minutes on a treadmill and doesn’t find it endlessly long and boring? Yet setting out on a 30 minute walk in the neighbourhood seems almost too short to be worth it.
A study amongst older adults in the US has shown that people who exercise outdoors spend significantly more time doing physical activity than people who exercise simply indoors.
Being outdoors is much more stimulating than working out in a mundane gym environment. It allows you to feel better grounded in your community. You meet real people and smile to your neighbours. Detaching yourself from the screen allows you to notice small changes in your everyday environment, like the seasons changing or a new movie poster.
Your brain receives more stimuli, becomes more creative and allows new thoughts and ideas to emerge. Exercising outdoors just isn’t boring.
Outdoor exercise simply isn't boring
3. Green Exercise Boosts Your Mood
Outdoor exercise brings positive changes not only to your body. Even five minutes of exercising outdoors (provided though you skip checking your smartphone) can greatly increase your happiness level and make you feel revitalised.
The exposure to natural sunlight plays an important role in enhancing your mood. Your serotonin (mood-enhancing chemical) levels increase. Exercising outdoors allows you to earn your daily dose of vitamin D – the happiness vitamin. Don’t forget that vitamin D is also associated with healthy heart and strong bones.
4. Outdoor exercise promotes greater exercise adherence
Outdoor exercise is more enjoyable than exercising in the gym and for that reasons it makes it easier to stick to the exercise routine.
The study comparing effects of green and indoor exercise on mental well-being found that “exercising in a natural environment was associated with greater feelings of revitalisation and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy. Participants reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity.”
Obviously the participants have shown willingness and enthusiasm to stick to exercising in nature.
5. Improved wellness through connection with nature
Connecting with nature is vital to our health and well-being. This is especially true in our computerised world, where everyone is busy checking news, emails and social media accounts. The lack of contact with nature in urbanised areas has even acquired a name: ‘nature deficit disorder’.
Allocating time each week to exercising outdoors can significantly enhance your mood, alleviate stress levels and improve mental well-being.
Take a moment to mindfully enjoy the landscape, listen to the sounds, feel the wind on your face and then complete your workout.
Physical exercise itself decreases the stress-related hormones adrenaline and cortisol. But the exposure to fresh air and direct sunlight also allows you to feel rejuvenated. Your brain focuses on the natural environment, putting aside everyday stressors. As a result you feel re-energised and more relaxed.
Nature deficit disorder
This is especially true in our computerised world, where everyone is busy checking news, emails and social media accounts.
The lack of contact with nature in urbanised areas has even acquired a name: ‘nature deficit disorder’.
6. Green exercise improves your attention and focus
In nature you are exposed to constant changes to the environment, be it different sounds, uneven terrain, falling leaves or changing weather conditions. While your mind is adjusting to these changes and focusing on exercise, it temporarily offloads daily stressors and negative thoughts. The process is similar to what happens to your mind during meditation.
This break in the stressful thought process allows your brain to reset. As a result you finish your workout with a clearer mind, prepared to approach daily problems with new attitude and more focus.
Improved productivity and focus
Do you feel inspired to start a new exercise program this winter? Take it outdoors!
Make sure you dress up warmly and take advantage of all the benefits for both your body and your mind.