One of the greatest ironies of modern life is that we drive to a gym to run on a treadmill. For some, gyms are an escape, a lifeline, an exercise mecca that provides everything they need to keep fit and stay sane in the face of daily pressures. While it’s true that gyms cater for a vast range of training regimes and provide equipment for almost any type of exercise, we often head there simply out of habit.
That’s where our weekly quota of exercise is done. During the winter months, this is more understandable when weather doesn’t permit certain outdoor activities as often. But in our modern lives of convenience, the great outdoors is sadly overlooked when it comes to working out. Really, getting outdoors should be the most convenient option of all. After all, it’s right there – just outside your front door. So why don’t we do it more often?
Taking your training outdoors can offer you more than just convenience and saving you a few pennies on your monthly gym membership. As well as the known benefits that we reap from exercising, spending time outdoors while doing it can have positive effects on our bodies in ways you don’t expect. So if you’re looking for a way to engage your body whilst also having a beneficial effect on your well-being as a whole, have a look at this list of benefits you can profit from by taking your exercise to the great outdoors.
Stepping out into the sun can instantly lift our spirits and it’s not so surprising when you learn that your body releases feel-good endorphins when you’re exposed to sunlight. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D which is essential for healthy bones among other things. Many people are deficient in Vitamin D without realising. You may be deficient if you have a dark skin tone, due to your pigment acting as a natural sunscreen, you are feeling ‘under the weather’ due to a lack of those lovely endorphins and you experience ache-y bones or gut trouble. If you think any of those may be affecting you, then head outside and soak up that sun! It’s also important to be responsible with your sun exposure. Wear a suitable sunscreen to protect the health of your skin.
- Workout Your Brain
Studies show that as little as 5 minutes of activity spent outdoors can have a positive effect on your mood and general mental well being. Another interesting find is that people who exercise outdoors report feeling less-exerted and willing to work out for longer than when they are indoors. That’s some motivation right there! Perhaps this is due to the mental stimulation that we receive when working out outdoors as opposed to staring at a wall in a gym. Being among nature can keep our brains active as well as our bodies, making us feel better connected with ourselves and our surroundings. Even if you can’t complete all of your workout outside, try to get in 5-10 minutes of outdoor exercise to lift your mood and get you mentally ready for your training session.
A review by the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry found that participants in studies who had exercised outdoors had stated more of a willingness to repeat the exercise than people who had exercised indoors. So exercising outdoors could help to keep you motivated and help you to stick to your fitness plan, all for free!
- Challenge Your Body
Though machines you find in the gym are great at replicating movements, they’re never as good as the real thing. Taking your exercise outdoors will challenge your body in new ways through experiencing new terrains and weather conditions. This forces your body and brain to stay alert, instead of mindlessly running miles on a treadmill.
- Bye Bye Body Fat
Another major benefit of heading outside and challenging your body in new terrain and weather conditions is that you can actually burn more calories by essentially doing the same exercise. Due to a varied terrain that can include different surfaces, inclines and declines, your body will a) be using muscles to stabilize itself which are often left out in the gym and b) work harder to maintain a constant pace while dealing with unexpected inclines and declines. Likewise, by factoring in weather conditions such as wind resistance, your body will be working harder to perform the same movements which in turn up the amount of calories you burn in your session. Winning!
- Get Creative
Tired of doing the same old circuit at the gym? Feeling lack-lustre when it comes to your workout routine? Heading outside can force you to get creative when it comes to your workouts. A lack of equipment means you have to think outside of the box when it comes to finding places to perform exercises. Head to your local park and find a sturdy bench and a set of steps, scout out some monkey bars, find a slope with the perfect incline, find some trees that are the perfect distance apart for short sprints… the opportunities are endless and incorporating your environment into your workout can often give you the giddy feeling of being back in the playground.
- Save Money, Lose Pounds
There are many reasons people avoid going a gym: feeling intimidated, not having the know-how to use machines and, first and foremost, not having the money for sometimes expensive gym memberships. However important we know regular exercise to be, it’s hard to priorities a monthly gym membership with a hefty price tag when we have bills to pay and mouths to feed at home. But there’s the con – exercise doesn’t have to cost anything. If you step outside your front door you have your very own gym waiting to be discovered. With some imagination and determination you can save yourself the price tag while losing those extra pounds.
If you really want to see how exercising outdoors can benefit you, get out there and try it. You won’t regret it!