The Many Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
By Tomás Würst Learn about the many benefits associated with outdoor activity. All guaranteed to have a positive impact on your overall wellbeing. They’ll leave you feeling more alive!
Now that spring is here, there’s no better way to improve your fitness than to exercise outdoors in the many beautiful locations Australia has to offer. Whether you hike, swing, surf or fitness train, just getting outside and interacting with nature will leave you feeling refreshed, re-energized and focused.
Nature nurtures us
Connecting with nature is substantial to our overall health and wellbeing.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors existed for thousands of years in outdoor environments. Thereafter, we all share an innate affiliation with nature.
The problem is that we now spend less time outdoors interacting with the natural world even though our brains are hardwired for it. Outdoor workouts allow us to reconnect with nature while providing numerous benefits.
Benefits of outdoor exercise:
Stress reduction and improved mindset
Green exercise refers to physical activity that takes place outdoors in natural environments. Studies have shown that it contributes to decreased tension, confusion, and anger. Even looking at green space can decrease the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenalin.
Exposure to natural sunlight combined with physical activity is thought to increase serotonin levels in our bodies, which can improve feelings of wellbeing and happiness. (Serotonin is a mood-enhancing chemical, and a deficiency has been linked to depression, anxiety, fatigue, and impaired cognitive function).
As our world becomes busier, we typically experience more stress and have less time available for physical activity. Dedicating time each week to exercising outdoors will alleviate stress on busy days and actually improve mental wellbeing and self-esteem, and may even help fight depression.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods (Algonquin Books, 2008), coined the term “nature-deficit disorder.” He believes human beings spend less time in nature, which contributes to increased behavioural problems, especially among children.
Are you rather to exercise at your own outdoor space? Here you can find some great ideas to Create an Outdoor Space That's Fun and Functional
Improved mental focus and commitment to exercise
The environment constantly changes when we exercise outdoors; weather, temperature and terrain are all factors out of our control. Our minds require a great deal of mental focus to adjust to these subtle changes. As a result, we receive a temporary break from daily stressors, which can improve our ability to focus on day-to-day tasks.
Studies reveal that those who incorporate outdoor exercise into their fitness regimen have better adherence to their exercise programs. The sights, sounds, and varying terrain associated with outdoor training cannot be replicated in a gym.
Natural landscapes simply provide us with more interesting things to view. The visual distraction decreases our rate of perceived exertion allowing us to train harder and for longer periods of time. Completing a long and challenging outdoor hike or WOD (Workout Of the Day) has an addictive quality that leaves us craving more!
Maximise the benefits
Surelly gym workout is beneficial and has a positive impact on our daily performance.
But indoor gym training can become tiring and unmotivational for many of us due to its sometimes odd and cramped atmosphere and space limitations. Outdoor workouts and activities are a great way to maximise the benefits, as you can get all the exercise benefits plus you get in touch with the natural elements further improving your wellbeing.
If you are growing bored with your gym exercise routine, try incorporating outdoor exercise one or two days of outdoor exercise and give yourself the freedom to engage in more varied, exciting movements out in nature. Exposure to fresh air and sunlight will leave you feeling refreshed.
Boosted levels of vitamin D
For most of us, the majority of our time is spent indoors. Outdoor training will help ensure we are receiving adequate levels of “the sunshine vitamin.”
When exposed to UVB rays from the sun, our bodies naturally convert cholesterol in our skin to vitamin D3. Deficiency of vitamin D has been linked to increased risk of a host of chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and some cancers.
In Sydney weather our skin only requires a few minutes of daily sun exposure in order to maintain adequate levels. There are many factors that influence the exact exposure needed, such as ethnicity, amount of skin exposed, age, and the UV index.
Incorporates different muscle groups
Outdoor sports and activity utilize different muscle groups than structured indoor workouts. For example, outdoor running or hikking are more difficult than exercising on a treadmill. The uneven terrain requires more lateral movements and the activation of stabilizer muscles throughout our ankles, knees, and core.
Mountain biking requires far more balance and coordination than a stationary or recumbent bike. Additional upper-body strength is also required for control and quick movements.
Avoids pain or injuries commonly related with stationary cardiovascular equipment
As mentioned, while running and hiking outdoor we experience a greater activation in our stabilizer muscles, but most importatly we have a much more variable mechanical patterns than running or walking on a treadmill. This, not only increases the intensity of the workout and improves our balance, coordination and reaction-time, it also avoids the very common joints pain and injuries associated with repetitive-mechanical-patterns found in treadmills or stationary bikes.
Our recomendations before you head outside:
Protect yourself from the sun
Although some sun is good for you, too much can be dangerous. Cover up exposed skin or wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30.
Muscles that are hydrated function better, so make sure to drink water before, during, and after exercise. If you are exercising hard in hot weather for longer than one hour, you should consume a sports beverage that contains carbohydrates and electrolytes.
Prepare your body for activity. The cooler the weather is, the longer your warm-up should be.
Enjoy and RESPECT Mother Nature's elements