Working out outdoors can improve both your physical and mental health.
Runners have known for years that running outdoors is much more enjoyable than grinding out miles on the dreaded treadmill. However, most athletes engaged in other sports tend to exercise indoors and therefore miss out on all of the remarkable benefits of outdoor workouts. This article will prove to you that enjoying the outdoors and getting a good workout does not have to be mutually exclusive, and that outdoor exercise may even have additional benefits.
4 Major Benefits to Exercising Outside
Adherence to regular exercise is crucial in reaching one’s health goals. Consequently, this has been a study subject for sport and medical researchers around the world. According to this study on what keeps middle-aged women motivated to workout, “exercise patterns represent a complex intersection of internal and external factors.” Reported barriers to exercise include time-constraints, lack of routine, judgmental environment, and lack of resources.
To lessen these barriers, many solutions have been implemented such as time-efficient training programs, accountability partners, judgment-free gyms, and an overwhelming amount of home exercise programs.
One interesting new area of research is how exercising outdoors can keep you motivated. For example, a recent study showed that exercising in nature can not only boost exercise intensity, but also enhances future exercise intention.
In a digital world, where our attention is pulled a thousand different ways, it can be hard to stay mindful and direct your focus to what matters. According to estimates by the marketing firm Yankelovich, we were exposed to about 500 ads per day in the 1970s. In 2006, they estimated that we were exposed to roughly 5,000. Anywhere the eye can see, it is likely to see an ad. With the rise of social media, this number has increased to above 10,000 per day.
According to a new study by Microsoft, the average person now loses concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the effects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain. That means we are now less focused than a goldfish, who has an average attention span of nine seconds.
How can you direct your focus and stay motivated? While you cannot decrease the number of ads shown by social media platforms or television, you can take steps to change your behavior. Meditation is often touted as the most effective way to train your mindfulness muscle and regain focus. Though, exercise and spending time in nature are two other ways that can help you in this process.
For example, one study investigated the emotional experience of a group of walkers via electroencephalography (EEG) in an urban versus green space setting. It was found that the walkers in a green space had lower levels of frustration and arousal, and higher levels of engagement after leaving the space and returning to their day.
Another interesting study by sports psychologists found that runners, in general, have reduced levels of anxiety/depression and anger, additionally, those that run in a park have markedly lower rates of depression and anxiety than those running in an urban environment.
3) Vitamin D
According to a recent epidemiologic study, Vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50% of the population worldwide. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, a weakened immune system, fatigue, and depression. This pandemic of hypovitaminosis D can mainly be attributed to lifestyle (for example, reduced outdoor activities) and environmental (for example, air pollution) factors.
Research shows that about 50% to 90% of vitamin D is absorbed through the skin via sunlight, while the rest comes from the diet. Twenty minutes of sunshine daily with over 40% of skin exposed is required to prevent vitamin D deficiency. That is why exercising outdoors can help you get adequate levels of the “sunshine” vitamin.
4) Disease Transmission
With COVID-19 forcing indoor gyms to implement strict sanitation rules, athletes around the world have been getting more creative with their workout routines. To reduce the transmission rate of infectious disease, exercising outdoors is supported now more than ever. What is holding you back from getting outside and moving?
3 Workout Ideas You Can Do Outside
1) Stadium Circuit
The biggest drawback that keeps people from running is that “it is boring.” You can only switch up your route so many times in your neighborhood before it becomes too repetitive. Stadium running can spice up your running routine, plus, it opens the barrel to other exercises besides running laps or doing crunches.
Most athletes combine bodyweight exercises with running upstairs, resulting in a circuit that works on speed, endurance, and strength. For example, start by doing pushups, triceps dips, and elevated pike pushups on the bleachers. Follow those bodyweight exercises with some speedwork such as short 30- second sprints on the center field. Finally, you can finish of your circuit by running up and down the stairs until you run out of gas or try and combine your running efforts with breathing training.
Any outdoor stadium that is welcoming towards athletes works for this workout. The nice thing about circuits is that if you do not like the exercises mentioned above, just get creative and come up with a circuit that fits your goals.
2) HIIT and Interval Training
HIIT training programs like this one for general fitness or this one for bikers are ideal to do outside since they can easily be done without special equipment. You can do interval running, walking, swimming, or bodyweight exercises, such as burpees, mountain climbers, pushups, squats, lunges, etc. The barrier to starting this workout is a lot lower than regular gym workouts, since all you need to do is put on some athletic clothes, step outside of your door, and start moving.
3) Jump Rope
Jumping rope is arguably the most underrated cardio workout. You may think of jumping rope as something done in schoolyards, requiring little effort. Nothing is less true, because when done at a high rate, jumping rope can burn about 140 calories in only 10 minutes.
Because it packs a punch in such a short time, and requires so little equipment, it is an ideal fat-burning exercise for people with a busy schedule and for those who travel often. If you are just getting started, it is advisable to start slow and jump on a softer surface such as grass to avoid injury (avoid hard surfaces like concrete). An example beginner workout is doing five rounds of:
When you feel comfortable doing standard hops and single-leg hops you can start incorporating more advanced moves such as high knee jumps, criss-cross jumps, double unders, etc.