The addition of nature and fresh air helps make exercising fun and therefore more effective. Combining outdoor exercise, natural light and sensory stimulation has a “salutogenic” effect: reducing stress and encouraging healthy behaviors.
Many people report preferring exercising outdoors, which may also have a greater effect on mental and physical well-being. Outdoor exercise is also rated as being more restorative compared to indoors since natural environments reduce emotional and physiological stress. Exercising outdoors provides all the physical benefits of indoor exercise (blood flow, improved cardiovascular health, improved strength, flexibility, endurance, etc.) and can also provide vital exposure to sunlight that increases important levels of vitamin D, unlike indoor exercise.
It’s a natural antidepressant. Outdoor exercise can help ward off seasonal affective disorder (SAD), depression and anxiety because sunshine naturally increases serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood. And exercise itself produces endorphins, another feel-good hormone that boosts your mood and reduces pain.
It challenges your body. When exercising on ever-changing outdoor terrain, your body is more challenged than when it is working out on a flat indoor surface. Whether you’re running on the beach or hiking up a mountain — your body is encountering a constantly changing environment. To keep up the activity at a consistent pace, you need to adapt to all those minute changes in your surroundings (such as slight inclines, bumps, or obstacles you may need to dodge), which means your body works harder than if you were running on a treadmill or using a stair machine
You may be more likely to stick with it. “I take many of my individual clients and classes outdoors,” says Gerardo. “They often tell me it doesn’t feel like as much of a workout as running on the treadmill, even though they are still getting a great calorie burn.”
It provides mental relief. “Many people feel a lot of tension about working out, losing weight and lowering their blood pressure,” he explains. “Outdoor exercise is enjoyable and feels more like play than a chore.”
Exercise for your mind "When you exercise outdoors, your mind is aware of the changing terrain. Whether you use the hills, the sand on a beach, or a winding path, your mind has to focus differently than it would on a flat gym floor," notes Vindum. And research suggests the effect of exercise on the mind tends to favor a positive direction. Several studies, including one published in Environmental Science and Technology in 2011, suggest exercise outdoors benefited mental well-being more than the same type of exercise inside.
You can turn it into a social outing. “Exercise can become a lot more fun if you involve family and friends,” Gerardo says. Instead of meeting a friend for lunch or coffee, consider going for a walk. Or start a BodyShock class for a weekly workout you can count on.
Cleaner air According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air even in large cities and metropolitan areas.
Here’s How to Get Started if You Want to Take Your Exercise Routine Outside
If you have any health issues, talk to your doctor before starting an outdoor fitness program, and ask any questions you have about upping the intensity of your fitness routine or jumping back into fitness if you’ve been inactive for a while.
Outdoor exercise can be adapted to anyone's level of fitness. Here are some tips to get you going.
Exercise early. "People can always find more excuses to avoid exercising outdoors at the end of the day," says Gerardo. In the morning your energy is higher, the air is generally cleaner, the temperature tends to be lower, and you’ll get to feel the post-workout benefits (less stress and a better mood) all day long.
Avoid temperature extremes. Although your body can adapt to colder or warmer weather, you should avoid exercising outside in extreme heat or cold. And in warmer temps, watch for signs of overheating, including headache, dizziness, nausea, faintness, cramping, or palpitations, according to information from Harvard Medical School.
Don't get burned. Although some sun is good for you, too much sun is not. "Always protect yourself with a good sunscreen, and wear sunglasses and a hat with a brim," advises Gerardo.
Drink enough water. "If you drink about 8 to 10 ounces of water 30 minutes before exercising outdoors, it should hydrate you sufficiently for a 30-minute workout. Remember that you can lose water through sweating, though — even in cooler weather. And you may start to get dehydrated before you feel thirsty. So keep a bottle on you throughout the sweat sesh.
Get some good gear. "Take advantage of the new technology in waterproof, breathable clothing material," advises Gerardo. The right gear lets you feel good in any type of weather.
Make outdoor exercises part of your lifestyle. "You can learn exercises that use only body weight and gravity and do them while you are walking to the post office," Gerardo says. Think about walking instead of driving. Plan outdoor activities with your family. Go for a hike instead of a drive. And get your BodyShock on weekly for that extra HIIT of calorie-burning performance and accountability.