Exercising Outdoors Beats the Gym By a Mile
Sure, a climate-controlled gym with amazing amenities can be a pleasant place to work out, especially in winter, but science suggests there are powerful advantages to leading an active lifestyle in the great outdoors.
Sure, a climate-controlled gym with amazing amenities can be a pleasant place to work out, especially in winter, but science suggests there are powerful advantages to leading an active lifestyle in the great outdoors. When the weather permits, take your workout back to nature for a variety of benefits to body, mind and soul.
“My patients tend to exercise more when they can get outside,” says Sandra Carlson, M.D., an internist in Glen Rock. “It’s less boring. You can see flowers, see people, enjoy the sunshine, breathe the fresh air. It increases endorphins and makes you feel alive.” And now there’s research to support outdoor exercise’s benefits.
Boost Energy and Reduce Tension
For example, a team from England’s Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry analyzed 11 trials that included more than 800 adults. They found that, when compared with indoor exercise, outdoor activity was associated with increased energy and revitalization, as well as decreased confusion, anger, depression and tension.
Outdoor exercisers also reported enjoying their workouts more, and were more likely to say they planned to repeat them than those who were holed up inside a gym. Many also had lower levels of cortisol (a hormone produced in response to stress) than their indoor counterparts, and said exposure to sunlight improved their mood. In addition, people who walked outside completed an average of 30 minutes more exercise per week than those who exercised indoors.
So, which outdoor activities provide the greatest benefit? Walking is at the top of the list. It boosts cardio, is gentle on the joints, strengthens bones, can be done almost anywhere and is free. From a mental-health standpoint, it can reduce stress, improve mood and spark creativity.
Gardening is another favorite outdoor activity for many. It promotes tranquility and relaxation, and has many physical benefits as well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, moderate activity, such as active gardening, for as little as two-and-a-half hours each week can reduce risk of obesity, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and depression.
Start Kids Early
If you have children, introduce them to outdoor fun at an early age. They’ll be more likely to carry your example into their teen and adult years, when stress-busting and health-enhancing activities become even more vital.
Being active outdoors lets you improve your fitness, while enjoying nature and relieving daily stress in the process. Now that’s what we call effective multitasking.
Don't Let Allergies Keep You Indoors
Do you love exercising outdoors but fear an allergy attack? Three key strategies will help you stay comfortable:
1. Prep your system.
During days or seasons when your allergies are at their worst, use an over-the-counter antihistamine before you exercise, says Sandra Carlson, M.D., an internist in Glen Rock. This will help stave off the allergens’ effects and may prevent an attack before it starts.
2. Pick your time.
If you have a pollen allergy, exercise early morning or late evening when pollen counts are lowest, says Dr. Carlson. If you’re allergic to mold, avoid exercising right after a rain shower, when molds are at their peak. Check the weather for the local pollen count.
3. Keep allergens outside.
After exercising, shower, wash your hair and change your clothes. You might also wish to rinse out nasal cavities using a Neti Pot filled with a saline solution—allergens tend to accumulate in nasal cavities after exercise.