9 Reasons to Take Your Exercise Outside
Exercise is synonymous with ‘going to the gym’. It’s almost like we can’t exercise unless we’re there. In fact, when we’re outside those four walls, we do everything we can to AVOID exercise.
But what if you could supplement your gym time with some exercise outdoors? And what if it was even better for you.
We can often look to our evolutionary past to get hints on how we can live healthier lives today. By living (at least in part) as our distant ancestors did, we can ensure we’re turning on the genes that make us healthy, and turning off the genes that don’t.
And we can pretty much guarantee our ancestors weren’t hitting the treadmill!
Here are our top nine reasons to take your exercise outdoors:
Sunlight is good for your health: Now of course, all good things in moderation, and excessive UV light can increase your risk of skin cancer. But some sun exposure is beneficial. When the sun hits your skin, it triggers the body’s production of vitamin D. The benefits of vitamin D are extensive, extending to bone mineral density, inflammation reduction, improved brain function, reducing the risk of some cancers, improved cardiovascular health and reduced rates of depression.
You’ll sleep better: Building on our previous point, exposure to sunlight in the morning signals to your brain that it is indeed morning, and your internal body clock resets to help you build regular sleep/wake patterns – one of the key factors in improving sleep.
Nature has a positive impact on our mental wellbeing: Something as simple as the colours around you can make a big difference to your happiness and mood. The presence of greens and blues increases immune system function and physical activity while reducing the prevalence high blood pressure and depression. Research tells us to aim for at least two hours a week in nature.
You’ll burn more energy – great for weight loss: You’ll actually burn more energy running for 30 minutes outside than you would with 30 minutes on a treadmill. Changes in temperature, uneven ground, hills and wind resistance all increase energy expenditure.
Unpredictable environments lead to wider reaching adaptations: Gyms have been designed to be as comfortable as possible, while still providing the stimulus to cause your body to adapt. Sure, you’re working hard, but you’re doing it with well oiled machines, even surfaces and balanced weights. While this makes you really good at ‘going to the gym’, it won’t always transfer to the outside world. Getting outside in novel environments causes your body to adapt to less well defined stimuli, making you more physically resilient and well rounded.
You’ll fill your body with ‘feel good’ chemicals: Exercising outdoors increases the levels of serotonin and endorphins – improving mood, and helping you to link exercise with happiness, which will make you more likely to maintain your healthy exercise habit.
You’ll work harder and longer: Research shows that people will work harder when exercising outdoors without feeling like they are. And they’ll exercise for longer while reporting lower exertion levels. This is a great way to modify your environment to increase the benefits you’ll get from working harder for longer.
It’s easier to interact social when you’re outdoors: Social interaction, and the formation of meaningful relationships plays a major role in your mental health. Catching up with friends over a long walk or cycle can give you many more benefits than just the physical exercise you’re doing.
It doesn’t cost anything: Exercising outdoors is free! Plus if you want to pick up a few easily transportable weights (kettlebells or dumbbells are a great option) it’s only a one-time cost.
So get outside. The physical and mental benefits are extensive.
There’s a rapidly growing trend towards ‘green fitness’, and it’s a trend you should be a part of.
Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.