Benefits of Outdoor Fitness
The days are longer, the weather is warmer and the scents of blooming flowers are in the air! Now that spring has officially sprung; who wants to be cooped up sweating indoors when it’s a gorgeous day outside? With a little creativity and imagination you will find that you can replicate almost any gym exercise outside, especially if you live near a park that has a fitness course with workout stations for pull-ups, step-ups, push-ups and other bodyweight exercises. Why drive to a gym to use a stair climbing machine when almost any outdoor staircase can provide the same challenge? If you have a bike, hit a designated bike path for an outdoor cycling workout instead of being stuck indoors on a one-wheeled bike going nowhere. Many parks have trails for running or walking that are much more scenic than running in place on a treadmill. These are all examples of how you can take your workout outside. When it’s a beautiful day take your fitness outside, here are 7 benefits of outdoor exercise.
Constantly changing environment
Exercising outdoors provides an opportunity to be physically active in a constantly changing environment. The more challenging the terrain, the harder the body has to work to sustain an efficient work rate. Yes, cardio machines in the gym make you sweat, but doing the same movement pattern over and over (and over) again could cause an overuse injury. Walking, hiking or running on a trail helps the body learn how to adapt to different surfaces, in addition, it could strengthen your connective tissues possibly helping you to avoid injuries.
Against the wind
Wind resistance can help you burn more calories. Not only will a changing terrain provide you with valuable variability but when running or cycling outdoors you will have to deal with the wind which can offer natural resistance. A strong headwind can help you burn more calories as you have to work harder to overcome the resistance. A good tailwind can help you move a little faster promoting the use of the larger type II muscle fibers responsible for strength and definition.
It’s your money, make it work(out) for you
Our tax dollars pay for local parks so you we might as well use them to get our money’s worth. One thing I can’t stand it spending money on stuff I never up using (at the time I thought I really needed a belt sander) which is why I make it a point to exercise in my local parks on a regular basis. My taxes are paying for park maintenance and upkeep so I figure if I use them for working out then I am receiving a good return on my investment. Right now my go to workouts are mountain biking and hiking in the trails of the La Costa reserve in Carlsbad, CA. When I lived in downtown San Diego I ran the trails through Balboa Park. When I lived in DC I copied Teddy Roosevelt and did my outdoor workouts in Rock Creek Park. Working out in parks allows you to do step-ups and ‘box’ jumps on the benches and finish with sprints either on flat terrain or going uphill. If you use the parks regularly then it can help you improve your health while feeling better about the money you send to the government.
My version of the OG StairMaster workout
Bonus: When Doing Fitness Outdoors – use a TRX
The TRX Suspension trainer was created by a Navy SEAL who needed to maintain his fitness while on deployment. It’s the perfect piece of equipment for use at a park or playground – easy to set-up and easy to use. To see a great workout, watch the video below of inventor Randy Hetrick putting me through the paces while he talks about how he created the product:
A penny saved is a penny earned
Exercising outdoors is a great way to save money. There are many benefits of going to a gym or fitness studio but let’s be honest, it can also be downright expensive. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to manage your expenses then cancelling your gym membership is one option to save a few dollars. It’s true that going to a gym or studio can provide extra motivation to train but if you have strong drive and motivation to reach your fitness goals then exercising outdoors is a great way to keep your money in your pocket.
The Dynamic Anatomy e-book teaches you about how your muscles work to move your body so that you can get GREAT workout anywhere!
Fitness in your neighborhood
Using your local park, running on a nearby trail or simply walking around your neighborhood are all great ways to meet your neighbors. We all know that exercise can enhance your physical health but did you realize that being connected with your community and having a number of positive relationships can help improve your mental health as well? Put your phone down and rather than stare at a screen while communicating with virtual friends go outside and move around in your community to enhance your real life social network.
As Dr. Daniel Levitin, the author of Successful Aging, points out – these small conversations are extremely good for our brain and could be an important part of slowing the aging process. Pick up a copy of Successful Aging to learn other helpful insights or watch our interview:
All in the family
Going outdoors gives you the opportunity to make your exercise time family time. There is nothing wrong with dropping your kids off at the daycare to take your favorite group fitness class but from time-to-time why not take the opportunity to exercise with your kids and show them that physical activity can be fun. Playing at the playground, going for a hike, riding bikes or playing a sport are only a few ways that you can be active with your progeny. Personally I’ve found that when I’m feeling a little sluggish or run down then instead of going to the gym and muddling my way through a workout I’ll take my kids to the local park and just simply play with them. It might not be as intense as my favorite barbell complex or kettlebell circuit but I’ve found that chasing my kids around and climbing the playground equipment with them does build up a good sweat. The extra bonus is that in a few years when they’re too cool for their parents I’m always going to have the cherished memories of our little park workouts.
The science says
There is quantifiable research suggesting that outdoor exercise provides greater benefits than sweating indoors. In one study the researchers found that exercising outdoors, “was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity…” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110204130607.htm
Get a great workout anywhere you can go by learning the science of how to design your own workout programs from your core muscles on out. Features workouts for endurance, strength, power and metabolic conditioning. Anyone can take the course; fitness professionals, personal trainers and group fitness instructors earn continuing education credits CECs: 0.4 ACE, 0.5 NASM and 5 AFAA.
A natural high
Alcohol is 7 calories a gram, instead of a liquid happy hour, make use of the additional sunlight to grab an early evening outdoor workout. When you try something new like hiking or riding your mountain bike on a new trail your brain will release a number of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine in addition to elevating levels of adrenaline all of which makes you feel groovy.
The next time it’s an absolutely gorgeous day outside and you’re dreading being stuck in a dark gym don’t force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy. Feel better knowing that you can make yourself feel better by skipping the gym for an outdoor workout instead.