When is the last time that you did an outdoor workout? While exercise in general is beneficial to the body, more and more research is showing that you can reap even more benefits by moving your workout outside. Personally, I only step in a gym 2-3 times a year, and mostly it’s because we are on vacation. I am not a gym person, and while I do like to challenge myself with a different workout style every once in a while, the gym with all of it’s shiny equipment and treadmills with TVs just isn’t for me.
Don’t get me wrong…if catching up on your favorite TV show while cranking away at the elliptical is the one thing that gets you moving, by all means, go for it. Indoor exercise beats sitting on the couch any day. However, I would challenge you to step outdoors for a sweat session. Here are five reasons to get outside.
#1 – Improve your Mood
As humans, we have a basic need to be outside. Study after study shows that being outside makes us happy. In fact, just looking at pictures of nature can elevate our mood. Just a short walk outside has been shown to improve mood and decrease depression. Exercising outside is associated with some really incredible feelings such as revitalization and increased energy. When you are outside, your self esteem is enhanced and your motivation improves. Exercising outside also has been shown to lower anxiety, cortisol levels, confusion, and anger.
Plus, who doesn’t love an incredible sunrise, a view of the trees, the feeling of the grass, or just a breath of fresh air?
#2 – Get a Better Workout
When you are outside, you are forced to deal with a constantly changing environment. While the treadmill is limited to a change of speed or incline, outdoor workouts provide many variables such as temperature, humidity, wind, or terrain. Just the exposure to temperature fluctuations can increase you stress resilience, burn more calories, and increase your cardiovascular performance. The terrain in a park or on a trail is not the cushioned treadmill or the perfectly level gym floor. Instead, it is hilly, uneven, a mix of road and grass, and it forces you to adapt to the changes. These changing surfaces increases the strength of your connective tissues.
Try it yourself. Perform a workout in a controlled environment like a gym or even your garage. Now, do that same workout at the park. Try it in the middle of summer and then in the dead of winter. That same workout is a lot different. Just by getting outside, you have put additional stress on your body. That added stress will give you a better workout.
#3 – Improve your Immune System
Outdoor workouts improve your mood and your fitness level, but they can also improve your immune system. Your body behaves differently in nature. Stressing your body in the great outdoors acts as a natural stimulus for your body to protect itself from disease. If you haven’t heard of forest bathing, chances are that you will hear about it soon. Basically, there is evidence that the airborne chemicals that plants and trees emit to protect themselves from things such as fungus, bacteria, and insects may also benefit humans. When you inhale these chemicals (phytoncides), it triggers your body to produce a specialized white blood cell, which can help improve your immune strength. According to Ather Ali, ND, MPH, assistant director of Complementary/Alternative Medicine Research at the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, “Exercise leads to an increase in natural killer cells, neutrophils, and monocytes, which ultimately increases immune function.”
A killer workout and a boost in my immune system…I’ll take it.
#4 – Get a Dose of Vitamin D
What better way to get some vitamin D than by exercising outside. Vitamin D is a necessary nutrient, and many of us don’t enough of it. Most Americans spend 8+ hours inside at a computer, and then they spend many more hours inside their home or the car. No wonder so many people are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D helps maintain the health of bones and teeth, supports the health of the immune system, brain, and nervous system, helps regulate insulin levels, supports lung function and cardiovascular health, and influences the expression of genes involved in cancer development. And guess what…your body makes vitamin D as a response to sun exposure.
Why not get some natural vitamin D while you are working out?
#5 – Indoor Workouts Spaces can be Nasty
I worked in a variety of gyms and fitness centers over the years. While many had great cleaning practices, it is really hard to keep gym equipment really clean. Think about it…you’re inside with sweat, and the air is pretty much just recirculating over and over. People wear colognes, deodorants, and perfumes. Maybe the equipment is sprayed with a chemical infested cleaner…well, those nice toxic chemicals are then pumped back through into the air that you are huffing and puffing as you sprint on the treadmill. Yuck.
When you are outside, you have the benefit of fresh air. You don’t have to worry about standing water, mold, fungus, or sitting someone else’s sweat. Despite efforts and great air filters, many indoor spaces have poor air quality. Want some detailed reasons to avoid the gym? Check out this article from Ben Greenfield Fitness.
While we think you should come workout with FOF, you don’t have to enroll in a structured program such as Fixed on Fitness to take your workout outside. Here are just a few ways to get a workout done in the great outdoors.
Go for a hike.
Get into nature. Find a trail, go to a park, or just find some green space and walk. Grab your family, and explore an area that you have never been to. Don’t have woods? Try the beach or any other space that is away from traffic.
Get your workout done in the park.
We post a workout weekly that can be done at a park or in pretty much any outdoor space. Follow us on YouTube or check the FOF blog on Wednesdays for our weekly workout. You can find last week’s workout here. You’ll need a jump rope and a kettle bell (two pieces of equipment that are very easy to transport). Looking for a workout with no equipment? Give this one a try.
Get in the dirt.
Try your hand at gardening. Even if you don’t have space for a garden, you can plant some flowers or vegetables in pots. Not interested in gardening? Get busy in the yard. Mowing the yard, weeding flower beds, and tending to your grass can be a great outdoor workout.
Pound the pavement.
Just go for a run. Crank up your music if you need to, lace up your shoes, and hit the road. If you struggle with motivation, find a group or a running partner. You will be amazed at how much better (and harder) you run is when you take it outside.
Not interested in running distance? Knock out some sprints. All you need is 100 yards, and you can get some really good work done. Last week, we completed 2×100 at 60% effort, 8×100 at 90-100% effort, and 2×100 at 60% effort. All 100s were on a 2:00 clock. Let me just tell you…I felt this one for days.
Don’t make excuses. Enough with the hot, cold, humid, rainy, windy, cloudy, bugs, whatever. Get outside. Your body will thank you!
Step out of your comfort zone, and come join some Fixed on Fitness workouts. Not only will you reap the benefits of outdoor workouts, you will also get the motivation, encouragement, and accountability of an incredible community. Try any of our locations for a week for free.
Cheers to sweating in the great outdoors!