Written by Mikaila Kukurudza
The winter months can be draining on our minds and bodies, and cause us to feel confined to the gym for our daily sweat sessions.
But now that the sunny season is here, it’s time to take a break from the stale air of the weight room and get outside for some much needed vitamin D. Exercising outdoors has many physical and mental health benefits that will improve the quality of your training and overall well-being, but here are seven.
1. It boosts energy.
Gyms can be dark and dreary, but sunshine elevates your serotonin levels, which in turn increases your energy and helps you remain calm and focused. The more focused you are on your workout, the better your results! “Aerobic exercise such as running and cycling are more enjoyable outside as you can use trails around parks or the city,” says strength and conditioning specialist, Jon-Erik Kawamoto. “Some people find cardio equipment boring, so doing aerobic exercise outdoors can be quite motivating.”
2. It’s cheap.
No need for expensive memberships or equipment when you’re in the great outdoors. In the warmer months, all you need is your bodyweight and a park bench or a wooded trail to give you a killer workout and save you some cash.
3. You can get creative.
Make working out fun again by challenging yourself to explore your local playground for possible workout equipment. Whether you do triceps dips on a bench or chin-ups on the monkey bars, you’ll be more apt to change up your workout with each day’s location than you would in your routine, indoor gym. “I’m a big advocate of getting outside to train,” says Andi Martin-Wagner, exercise physiologist and Fitness Universe Pro. “Structures such as park benches, picnic tables, stairs, trees, and hills can be used as props to enhance the workout.”
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4. You’ll feel more optimistic.
According to a study published by Journal of Environmental Psychology, those who spend more time outside being active experience enhanced mental health in regards to optimism.
5. You can make it social.
Unless your friends belong to your gym, it can be tough to call the girls together for a workout. But it’s easy to plan a meetup at an outdoor location for a group training session (followed by coffee of course), which is proven to have both social and physical benefits. According to a study published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise, the habits of people you know affect your own habits, particularly when it comes to exercising. Surrounding yourself with good friends with a similar lifestyle as you can help ensure that you stay on track.
6. You’ll burn more calories.
Running outside means no speed controls; however, the natural terrain combined with the wind causes more resistance than a treadmill. According to the Journal of Sports Science, this causes you to expend more energy and therefore, have a better cardio session. To make your route even tougher, you can incorporate hills and stairs.
7. No mirrors.
We’ve all done it: wasted a little too much of our training time studying our reflections and taking gym selfies. But not only can mirrors be a distraction, they may also hinder your form. A recent study from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago suggests there are actually no benefits to watching yourself rep it out. The study found that participants who watched themselves doing squats in the mirror didn’t have better form, and leaned 10 percent more on to their dominant leg than participants without a reflection. When working outside, you’ll be more focused on how you feel rather than how you look.