The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise 300x200 - The Benefits of Outdoor ExerciseAre you a self-proclaimed gym rat? (Or own a membership and never use it?) Maybe you even have a treadmill or other indoor exercise equipment at home?  If so, you are shortchanging yourself  by limiting all your exercise to the indoors. And if the weight isn’t budging, you might want to consider getting off your treadmill and heading outdoors! Outdoor exercise has benefits you may not have considered.

You’ll get in shape faster

People who exercise outdoors as opposed to riding a stationary bicycle or walking on a treadmill must adjust to subtle changes in the environment that can result in greater physical fitness. Outdoor cyclists, for example, experience wind drag that is impossible to replicate indoors. When you walk, you’ll encounter different terrain that forces you to use different muscles, such as a long downhill slope.

You’ll have lower levels of stress hormones

It is well known that exercise reduces stress, but the mysterious factor is why levels of the stress hormone cortisol are lower after exercise outdoors than when people exercise inside. It may have to do with what renowned biologist Sir J. Arthur Thomson called “the healing power of nature,” noting that mindful contact with the outdoors could positively affect mental and physical health.

You’ll enjoy it more.

After all, you won’t spy a deer or cardinal when you’re walking on the treadmill. Nor will you feel the wind in your face, the pebbles under your feet or have the opportunity to take a photo of the fascinating way the light meanders through the branches above your head. People who exercise outdoors report feeling a greater sense of vitality, enthusiasm and self-esteem, and less depression, tension and fatigue.

You’ll exercise more often

A recent study in the “International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity,” found that people who exercised outdoors consistently clocked more hours of physical activity than those who exercise indoors.  While it’s tempting to watch the clock while on a treadmill, you’re unlikely to do so outdoors. It’s easy to get swept up in the surrounding beauty and lose track of time – all the while getting in better shape.
We’re not saying you should cancel your gym membership or donate the treadmill, because winter weather will eventually return. But until then, the next time you’re getting ready to hop on the treadmill, reconsider and go for a walk outside. The treadmill will still be there when the weather turns cold; in the meantime, you’ll get an extra boost for your mental and physical health.