There are lots of benefits to working out regularly. Exercise not only tones and strengthens muscles; it builds endurance and reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer. If that isn’t enough, it also gives you energy and reduces stress. But working out in a gym has its drawbacks. Gyms are often overcrowded and stuffy, and there’s the inevitable wait for a piece of equipment if you go at a busy time. Is it better to exercise outside?
Exercising Outside: Is Green Exercise Better?
According to an in-depth literature review conducted by the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, outdoor workouts are better for you both from a physical and a mental standpoint. Exercising in the great outdoors – so-called green exercise because it puts you in touch with nature – helps to lift mood and even raises self-esteem.
What benefits does outdoor exercise have? The effects of outdoor workouts in this study varied with age. Younger people get the biggest boost in self-esteem when they do outdoor workouts – and older people the least – but green exercise is beneficial for everyone.
You don’t have to exercise outside for long to get the benefits. As little as five minutes of outdoor exercise has mental health benefits – but you’ll have to work out a little longer to get the cardiovascular benefits of exercise. On the hand, if you’re looking for a mental pick-me-up even a five minute walk around the block is beneficial.
This study points out that people who do outdoor exercise are more likely to stick with it, because they feel better doing it. Even people who hate to exercise may find green exercise pleasurable. Another bonus? More vitamin D absorption takes place with outdoor exercise, which may also help to boost mood and wipe away those winter blues.
Outdoor Workouts: You Have Lots of Options
There are lots of ways to exercise outside. Take a brisk walk or jog in your neighborhood or find a scenic walking trail in your area. Get out your bike and pedal down a biking path. Go to the park on a sunny day, and use the playground equipment to do pull-ups and a park bench to do tricep dips. Then burn a few calories and tone your quads by swinging on the swing set while pumping your legs as hard as you can.
Jump rope outside with a child on a sunny day, or take your yoga mat outside and do some outdoor poses. Don’t forget about hiking, rollerblading, tennis and swimming. They all burn calories and are outdoor activities.
Green Exercise: The Bottom Line?
If the thought of sweating it out in a crowded gym doesn’t appeal to you, head outdoors instead. It’ll give your mental health a boost you won’t get from working out at the gym.