You’ve been cooped up all winter, sweating it out in a packed and germy gym, fighting for machines and breathing stale air. Now that spring is here, there’s no reason to stay indoors — especially because the benefits of training outdoors are plentiful.
“People often ask me, ‘Does it make a difference whether I run on the treadmill or outside?’ and I always say yes,” says Jamie Brenkus, veteran fitness expert and a physical wellness ambassador for Evergreen Wellness (www.myevergreenwellness.com). Absolutely, there are benefits to going outside,” he says, “No question.”
Did you know...
Outdoor elements such as increased temperature, wind, and hills provide a natural resistance and make our bodies work harder and burn more calories.
Here are nine great reasons you should abandon the treadmill and the hit the pavement.
1. You’ll get revitalized and motivated
Outdoor exercise is more fun and energizing than indoor routines. Getting outside motivates people to work out more often, according to research. Bonus outdoor benefits include feeling more positive and less tense, confused, angry, or depressed.
2. You’ll burn more calories
It takes more effort to run, walk, or bike the same distance outdoors as it does to do the same exercise on cardio equipment indoors, which will help you burn more calories. When you’re outdoors, you may have to deal with wind while cycling or running, which creates a natural resistance and causes you to have to work harder. One study found that in a high-intensity workout, you’d have to run 15 percent faster on a treadmill to burn the same calories as running outdoors.
3. You’ll reduce your chance of injury
“Cardio machines are great, but the same movement over and over again increases the chance of overuse injury,” says Brenkus. “Whereas outside, a constantly changing environment teaches the body how to adapt, which is very helpful from a physiological standpoint.” Different terrain helps strengthen tendons and ligaments, uses a greater variety of muscles, and can improve balance and flexibility.
4. You’ll Sleep better
Exposure to natural light during the day keeps our internal clock on track and enhances sleep. One study compared the effects of morning and afternoon outdoor exercise among 360 women, and found that being out in the morning produced the greatest sleep improvement, but afternoon light was also beneficial.
5. You’ll boost your mood in minutes
Just five minutes of “green exercise” — any kind of physical activity in a nature setting like a city park or trail — produces a major improvement in mood and sense of well-being. Nature plus water, such as a pond, lake, river, ocean, or waterfall, delivers an even bigger mood boost.
6. You’ll improve your immunity
To resist colds, flu, allergies, and other illnesses, our immune system needs to be exposed to a variety of beneficial bacteria and other microbes that live outdoors. But we’re prone to needless ailments by spending, on average, 90 percent of our time indoors. Studies show that by exposing us to nature’s microbes, exercise in a natural outdoor environment enhances our ability to resist harmful bugs that cause infections and other health problems.
7. You’ll have fun as a family
Biking, hiking, taking a nature walk, or playing games outdoors are a great way for the whole family to spend time together. “Just play and have fun,” suggests Brenkus. And physical activity gets everyone to take a welcome break from digital devices.
8. You’ll connect with your neighborhood
Gym workouts tend to be solitary, even in classes. Outdoors, you might meet neighbors and notice things in your community that are invisible from a car. For safety reasons and to create a more enriching experience, Brenkus recommends leaving ear buds at home and paying attention to your outdoor
9. You’ll save time and money
The outdoors is always open and generally not crowded, and there’s no waiting to use a piece of equipment, no sweaty smell, and no fee. Granted, extreme temperatures, rain, or snow can be problematic, but most of the country has hospitable weather during the greater part of the year, and early in the day in very hot summer climates.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Training Outdoors
Different environments pose different hazards, from wild animals in forests to traffic and pollution in cities. Things to keep in mind include:
- Get outside in daylight, ideally in the morning.
- Seek out nature. In a concrete jungle, look for parks and tree-lined streets.
- Keep your eyes and (preferably bud-free) ears open and enjoy the environment.
- In deserted areas, consider going with a buddy.
- Get absorbed in music and become oblivious to your surroundings.
- Forget to stretch. After a long walk or bike ride, stretch your muscles while they’re still warm.
- Over do it. If you’re not accustomed to long hikes or running stairs, you can easily push your body too hard, increasing risk of injury.
Weight Train Naturally
With zero equipment and lots of fresh air you can burn fat and build muscle with this simple routine.
12 (each side)
*Warm up with a 5-minute run or walk before starting.