Benefits of Exercise Outdoors
Winter for me is blah. I am not a fan of the cold and often gray skies. And if you have ever battled Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), it's not walk in the park...sorry for the pun. However, getting outside side no matter what time of year, temperature, or environment it so very crucial to me and you can benefit too. I am extremely fortunate to be able to run or bike from my house along vast farmland and country roads, drive 10 minutes to watch the sunset over the bay and play in the ocean, or drive 30 minutes to go mountain biking or trail running. Even if you are surrounded by buildings, exercising in the great outdoors exponentially compounds the benefits of all that fresh air and natural vitamin D.
In the most simplistic form, both we as humans and our surrounding environment are essentially a bunch of atoms with positive and negative ions. The more negative ions in the air, the less polluting it is and more positive it is for us. Indoors those negative ions are missing. Physically speaking, negative ions can help improve asthma and respiratory symptoms, reduce blood pressure and heart rate, improve sleep cycles, headache reduction, and works to remove pathogens and airborne bacteria. Read more about the research here. There is an ancient practice in Japan called forrest bathing for the antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and antibacterial benefits. Additionally your body produces cells to attack the cancerous and tumors. Pretty amazing stuff! Water and particularly the ocean has the highest concentrations of negative ions which is why us surfers get so incredibly blissed out after a session and can feel it when we can't get out. So if you have a stream you can walk by or a hike to a waterfall all the better. On the mental health side of the equation those negative ions play a significant role as high concentrations of negative ions are essential for high energy, positive mood as well as decreased anxiety and depression as shown in this study. The vitamin D I mentioned also plays a huge role in combatting S.A.D
2. The release of feel good hormones that we all love from our exercise also increases when that
exercise is done outdoors. A study at the University of Queensland, Australia, found that those who exercised outdoors on a regular basis had higher levels of serotonin, a hormone that regulates mood, than those who workout mainly indoors. They also had higher levels of endorphins, the post- exercise rush that occurs after exercise when exercising outside, especially in green environments.
3. You will be more likely to workout longer and push yourself harder when outdoors. That change of scenery is stimulating in a way that staring at a wall or even t.v. can not compare to which nudges you to go longer and a greater level of enjoyment.
4. Burn more Calories! Those environmental conditions that your body adjusts to whether it be colder or hotter temps, wind resistance, or inclines changes, your adaptation to it will result in harder work. While the idea of harder work may sound too difficult, think of it as an added element to your weight loss goals.
Always take precautions when outdoors should go without saying to stay safe. Running through a city? Leave your earbuds out. Use safety lights in the dark. Dress appropriately for whether conditions and layering when it is chilly. Go out in the early morning during heat advisories. Always hydrate before, during, and after. Apply sunscreen even if it's cloudy. Use shoe gators if it is icy. Don't go in the water without someone else present. Use common sense and some grit and mental positive self talk to get yourself out the door and you won't be sorry!