For most people, working out means driving to an indoor gym and exercising in a temperature-controlled environment. Indoor exercise is a blessing during the cold Fall and Winter months, but as Summer rolls around it’s important to take time to get outside, too! Whether it’s a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood, an outdoor bike ride, or a functional band workout in your yard, any kind of outdoor exercise brings along many great benefits that you just can’t get inside.
Here are a few of our favorite healthy benefits of outdoor exercise:
It Improves Your Mood: It’s no secret that exercise of almost any kind can be a great way to relieve stress and improve your mood, but that effect is amplified when you consistently do your workouts outdoors. Recent studies have found that people who regularly exercise outdoors have higher levels of serotonin – a hormone that regulates mood, digestion, and sleep – than people who consistently do their working out indoors. A 2010 study from the UK found that even people who engage in short bouts of what they call “green activity” – or outdoor exercise – see large, mood-boosting benefits. The researchers conducting this study found that this outdoor exercise improved both the mood and self-esteem of the 1200 participants, and that exercise near water had an even greater impact on this improvement.
You'll Get Vitamin D While You Exercise: There’s no better way to get Vitamin D than exercising outside while you soak up the sun! When you think of vitamin D, bone health may be the first thing that comes to mind. But in recent years scientists have drawn new connections between vitamin D levels and other aspects of human health. Research has indicated that vitamin D not only helps our bones and teeth but also plays a role in cell growth, the immune system, and in managing inflammation. Scientists have even drawn connections between vitamin D and elevated mood and reduced incidence of depression. Athletes and active people may have unique issues stemming from vitamin D deficiency, as being low in vitamin D has been shown to increase the risk of muscle injuries, stress fractures, and respiratory infections. Muscle strength and performance are also a part of the vitamin D equation – in fact, new research is connecting dots between adequate vitamin D levels and post-workout recovery, muscular strength, and body fat levels. Even if it’s as simple as spending 30 minutes a day walking outside, do what you can to get your daily dose of Vitamin D whenever possible.
Extended Time Outdoors Can Reduce Inflammation: Not only is outdoor exercise great for your mental health, but recent research has also indicated that it can be great for your physical health, too. One study found that people who regularly spent time in nature had lower levels of inflammation in their bodies than people who consistently spent their time in a city. Inflammation can put significant stress on the body over time, and it’s crucial to do what we can to reduce the inflammation in our bodies – including a healthy diet, regular exercise, and time outdoors. What better way to spend time outdoors than to exercise outside?
Outdoor Activity is Great for Your Immune System: The increase in Vitamin D exposure and reduced inflammation we mentioned above are two of the key ways that outdoor exercise impacts the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to an increase in susceptibility to infection, and recent research has shed new light on the important role that it plays in the innate immune system. By exercising outside and increasing your exposure to Vitamin D – especially if you live in a climate with cold Fall and Winter months – you’ll help support a key part of your immune system.
You’ll Work Out Longer and Harder: If given the choice between 20 minutes on a treadmill and 30 minutes outdoors, it’s safe to say that just about all of us would rather be outside – especially when the weather is good! Why put yourself through the same mundane indoor workouts when you can get outside and give yourself a change of scenery? Working out in an outdoor setting is usually more visually stimulating than an indoor one – it may not sound like much, but it’s easier to dig deep and push for longer during a tough workout when you’re breathing in the fresh air than when you’re staring at the white wall of a smelly gym. The research backs it up, too, with two separate studies indicating that working out outdoors makes people more likely to exercise in the first place, and more willing to exercise for longer durations.
Outdoor exercise brings along many great benefits that you just can’t get inside. Although everyone's ideal workout space is a little bit different, it's important to challenge yourself and try something new. If you work out in your basement every day, try taking your bands into the yard or a nearby park so that you can reap the healthy benefits of outdoor exercise.