The benefits of physical fitness are hard to debate. There is really no downside to getting regular exercise, no matter how old you are! From children to older adults, everybody can benefit in different ways from getting their body moving. Experts suggest that every person should get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. Some examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, dancing, bike riding, hiking, or water aerobics.
Many people get their daily exercise by heading to their local gym or working out at home. However, if this is the only activity you’re doing, you aren’t reaping the benefits that can come with outside exercise. Aside from the many benefits that regular exercise can bring (such as better physical health, weight management, and improved mental health), taking your workout outdoors can lead to even more benefits that you may not know about.
What are the benefits of being outdoors?
Being outside is good for both the body and the mind. Research has shown that there are several benefits to getting out of the house, including the following:
A boost in energy levels
Studies have found that even sitting outside in the fresh air can give the brain a boost it needs when it’s feeling tired or fatigued. Being outside can also help to maintain vision health; one study found that school children who spent more time outdoors were less at risk for developing nearsightedness.
Sunlight is a great outdoor health booster. This is because the body needs vitamin D, which gets synthesized from the sun’s rays. Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption and the reduction of inflammation, and prevents bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Sunlight has also been shown to help decrease overall levels of chronic pain and stress.
Immune system strengthening
Outdoor air is full of plant-produced chemicals known as phytoncides. When these chemicals are breathed in, they can help to increase the level of white blood cells in the body – in turn, helping the immune system become stronger when fighting off infections and other diseases.
Mental health and cognitive benefits
In the winter months, there is less sun and, depending on where you live, it’s often too cold to spend a lot of time outside. Winter can also lead to the development of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. But studies have shown that getting outside, even in cold and dreary weather, can help to alleviate the symptoms of SAD such as depression, anxiety, and fatigue.On top of that, being outside can also help to boost creativity and enhance levels of focus.
Why is outdoor exercise important?
Knowing the benefits of both exercise and being outdoors, it’s safe to say that putting the two together can create an even more beneficial experience.
Harder and more varied workouts
People who work out in their home or at the gym are often exposed to the same conditions. Working out in the great outdoors encourages you to mix it up by having you experience different situations. These changes mean you need to adapt to your surroundings, which makes the body work harder.
Although many might think that indoor air is cleaner than polluted outdoor air, research from the Environmental Protection Agency has found that the opposite is likely true. When working out outdoors, you get to breathe in fresher air that’s better for your lungs.
Better mental wellbeing
Outdoors, the mind has to focus differently than it would on doing the same exercises in the same indoor setting. This level of changing focus has been shown to cause overall reductions in mental illness symptoms.
All of these benefits can be utilized by people in any age group, because the activity that’s performed outside isn’t the most important aspect of the outdoor exercise. Whether it’s a family bike ride to a park or a slow and steady walk along a paved sidewalk, being outside is great for everyone.
How to motivate yourself to get outside
It can be hard to get up and force oneself to go outside sometimes; however, there are ways to find the motivation you need to get out there. An emotional support animal, for example, can be a great motivator, because many need to go outside for walks every day, especially emotional support dogs. Your furry little friend could give you the push you need to enjoy some fresh air every single day.
Other ways that you can motivate yourself to get more outdoor exercise include:
The safest way to start any new exercise regimen is by easing into it. This will keep you from overwhelming your body and help to prevent injuries. Any new exercise program will be difficult at first, but taking it one step at a time can help to manage those difficulties and help you build up slowly.
Get it out of the way
At the end of a long and tiring day, it’s often near impossible to force yourself back out of the house to exercise. This makes getting up early and starting your day with a quick workout outdoors the best way to develop a habit and stick to it.
Get a fitness watch
Even if you’re not a fitness junkie, getting a fitness watch can help you track your workout and activity progress, which can be motivation in and of itself. Once you see how well you’re doing and how far you have come in your exercise routine, it will motivate you to keep going.
It’s important to note that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been restrictions in place in many different places. But as long as you’re following the rules in your area when you head outside, you can benefit greatly from outdoor time and exercise.