Working out in a gym may be more comfortable — especially during a Texas summer — but science suggests that outdoor exercise can produce more benefits than an indoor workout.
Check out these 10 benefits of outdoor exercise:
Improve Your Mental Health Multiple studies have shown that outdoor exercise is directly related to improved mental health, mood, and self-esteem. Science also shows that exercising outside can help decrease tension, depression, and anger. Outdoor exercise can create a feeling of euphoria from the release of endorphins—the feel good hormone. After an outdoor workout you may also feel more energized and revitalized.
Have Better Attention and Focus One small University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study found that kids with ADHD had better concentration after a 20-minute walk outside. “Closeness to nature increases our well-being — it has an immunizing effect by protecting us from future stresses and helping us concentrate and think more clearly,” said Jo Barton, PhD., lead author of a 2011 study analyzing the mental health of 53 people who were involved in indoor or outdoor activities for six weeks.
Be More Motivated The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes (30 minutes, five days a week), of moderate intensity exercise each week. We all know it can be hard to keep up with even the minimum sometimes, and the reality is, some of us could use more than 150 minutes of exercise per week. Studies have found, however, that people who workout outdoors are more likely to continue exercising than people who workout in the gym.
Lower Your Risk Of Being Overweight Simply spending time outside each day can make you healthier. The fresh air, the scenery — being outdoors inspires physical activity. When we spend more time inside, we’re likely to find ourselves planted on the couch rather than getting up and staying active. One study of children found that kids who spend more time outside are 27 to 41 percent less likely to be overweight than kids who spend more time inside.
Have More Energy Any exercise — indoors or out — will give you more energy, but taking in fresh air can increase your energy boost from exercise. A 2009 University of Rochester study found that 20 minutes outside can give you as much energy as a cup of coffee. If you want to feel energized, connect with nature.
Get More Vitamin D Many Americans are lacking in the vitamin D department, and according to Everyday Health, overweight people are almost twice as likely to have a vitamin D deficiency. Just 10 minutes outside can give you enough UV radiation to produce about 10,000 international units of vitamin D. (Adults should get around 2,000 IU per day.) Vitamin D can help protect against heart disease, osteoporosis, and breast, prostate, and colon cancers. It also helps us combat depression, insomnia, and an overactive immune system.
Be Less Bored With more scenery to enjoy, outdoor workouts tend to go faster, and are far less boring than staring at a TV while you walk on the treadmill. If you’re exercising outside, change it up — choose a new route for your walk or jog, or head to a different park. New people and new sites will keep things interesting and help keep you motivated.
Spend Less Gym memberships aren’t cheap and can cost you several hundred dollars every year. When you miss a workout, that’s money you’re throwing away. (For some people that fact alone is motivation to workout!) But why spend money on a gym membership when you can take your workout outdoors for free? If you do choose to join an outdoor bootcamp or group fitness class, you’ll still reap all the other benefits of outdoor exercise, and many times, outdoor fitness groups are even less expensive than a gym membership.
Avoid Germs in the Gym Gyms aren’t exactly the cleanest places on earth. In fact, some studies have shown that gyms are breeding grounds for germs and bacteria that can cause MRSA and other illnesses and infections including athlete’s foot, boils, ringworm, and many others. Indoor air is also more polluted than outdoor air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. So take your workout outdoors where you can breathe fresh air and avoid the nasty germs lurking around the gym.
Exercise On Your Own Time Even if your gym is open 24/7, you still have to find time to get in the car and drive there (oftentimes in traffic). When you exercise outside, you aren’t limited by class schedules, transportation, or traffic. Just lace up your sneakers and head out the front door!
Marilyn Hoyt is a Dallas-based Certified Professional Trainer. She holds group workout sessions, including groups specifically designed for people who are significantly overweight, intermediate and advanced fitness camps, and provides in-home personal training.
“Aiming to educate, motivate, and inspire others to live life with purpose!”