5 Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
Oh the great outdoors. The sun, dirt, sand, gravel, grass, leaves, wind, and anything else you can appreciate all add to the long list of reasons why working out in nature is a fantastic choice. I love taking Lilly for long hikes, hanging out with my early morning running group, hitting the tennis courts with Jon, and going for peaceful quiet trail runs. When I’m outside and moving I get my best thinking done and my best workouts accomplished. I work harder, have more fun, and feel best after an outdoor workout. I love finding new and creative ways to turn the great outdoors into one giant playground to push my limits and get stronger.
Less pressure more fun
The latest craze in gym advertising is offering a “no pressure” zone by setting complex rules, using alarms mounted on a wall, and promising an environment with no exclusivity. As someone who has been to and worked in a lot of gyms I can tell you there’s no way to break the social pressures that happen within the four walls of a gym. When you combine a diverse population of people all working toward different goals, someone is bound to be uncomfortable. Mother nature doesn’t make you feel that way. When you head outside the social pressures can melt away and you have permission to play. There are no mirrors to watch yourself in and no one standing next to you curling your squat weight. The rules change once your feet hit the trail, sidewalk, or grass. You are free to climb on a jungle gym and call it strength training or run in the woods and call it cardio. Nature doesn’t discriminate or pressure you to be anything but yourself. It will challenge you and make you better but you’ll be so distracted by all the fun your having you won’t notice.
Heading outdoors doesn’t mean you can only run, walk, bike, or hike for exercise. While those are all wonderful options there are so many things you can do to stay healthy while appreciating nature that don’t involve long stents of cardiovascular exercise. Take this month’s workouts for example:
Not a single lengthy cardio choice listed. There are also options for playground workouts, gardening, swimming, outdoor bootcamps, sports and agility training, rock climbing, rafting, ropes courses, and so many others. Taking your exercise outside can open up a collection of workout options that are far more varied than anything you could do inside a gym. Outdoor exercise offers the freedom of creativity and variety in your choices that can only be found outside the walls of a gym. Humans were active outdoors long before the advent of the traditional gym and will continue to be long after the fitness trends have faded.
The best part of outdoor workouts is that they do not have to cost anything. You can grab a pair of dumbbells and workout in your back yard for free or take a lengthy rock climbing trip in the Rockies if you want. Nature is everywhere and you have endless choices of how involved or costly you want your activity to be. Playgrounds are at every local park in the country and are free for anyone who wants to use one. Sidewalks do not charge a fee for running and the sun won’t stop shining on you just because you didn’t pay your bill. Nature costs nothing.
My Grandma loves telling me about the importance of vitamin D. If you’re sick one of the first questions she’ll ask is “Are you getting enough vitamin d?”. If your answer is no she’ll tell you to go sit outside or by a window and then you’ll feel better. Turns out she’s actually right. Vitamin D promotes bone health, prevents disease, boosts the immune system, improves skin conditions, prevents certain types of cancer, maintains phosphorous and calcium levels in the blood, and lowers blood pressure. While there are supplements you can take, the best way to get your vitamin D is to head outdoors and soak up the sun. Vitamin D deficiency can result in rickets, osteomalacia (weak bones/muscles), and depression. Workouts outside are beneficial not only to your immediate physical health but boost your long term health benefits thanks to Vitamin D.
Exercising outside is fun and when we like something we are more likely to keep doing it for a longer period of time. The most important part of any fitness regimen is consistency and science has proven outdoor exercisers are more consistent over long term periods of time. Long distance running on a treadmill isn’t very fun which is why you don’t see many people opting to train for a marathon indoors unless they have to. Outdoor exercise utilizes more than just one muscle group at a time which can lead to faster results and harder workouts. You are able to see your progress quickly and your workouts inside of the gym will be more efficient thanks to increased muscular endurance. Once you see progress you are more likely to continue your routine and maintain your results.
Bonus: You can bring a buddy
Who doesn’t enjoy a little extra company? Bring your spouse, friends, or dog along for the fun and make your workout even better. I love sharing my outdoor adventures with my running group, Jon, and Lilly. Each companion brings a new and fun dimension to my workout that makes time fly. Plus Lilly is always fun when she’s tired.