No one disagrees that physical exercise and functional movement are critical for a healthy mind and body. In fact, exercise is actually one of the top ways to boost your immune system and keep your body strong against illness and it can reduce blood pressure and prevent heart disease. However, though you may think that the gym is the best place to get your sweat on, science may have something else to say. The best exercise equipment is right outside your back door. Here’s why you should cancel your gym membership and soak in the sun while moving.
Exercise and fresh air and sunshine are some of the best cures for insomnia or poor sleep quality. Not only is your body more tired at the end of the day, but when you exercise outdoors, you are able to clear your mind and relax in nature which allows you to sleep better when it’s time for bed.
You’ll burn more calories
Studies have shown that people who walk or run outdoors actually burn 10% more calories than the same people doing the same exercise on a treadmill indoors. This is likely due to the fact that when you exercise outdoors, you are more distracted by your route, wildlife, and trying not to trip on things such as sidewalk cracks, which means that you are less focused on your burning lungs and tired legs and your body is adapting to the changes in terrain and you are focused on avoiding obstacles instead. Put this to the test by running or walking a mile on a treadmill and then running or walking a mile outdoors. There is a pretty significant difficulty difference.
Boosts mental health
We can all testify to the rush of endorphins that comes after a good, satisfying exercise. You feel empowered, happy, and ready to take on the world. This feeling is magnified when you exercise in the fresh air instead of the gym. When you practice “green exercise,” you not only get the endorphin rush from exercising but the serotonin and vitamin D boost from the sunlight which has a direct impact on mood and can actually alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
How much are you paying for that fancy gym membership? What if I told you that you could get exactly the same benefit from exercising outdoors for free? It’s true! Going for a walk, setting up your yoga mat in your backyard, or swinging the kettlebell on your patio are all great ways to get your heart pumping, get your mind and body engaged, and they won’t cost a cent.
It will elevate your self-esteem
Studies have shown that spending time exercising outdoors can improve your mood and your overall outlook on life, including boosting your sense of self-esteem. If you are feeling down or unconfident, throw on some workout clothes and go for a walk or a jog in the park. Soon you will be focused on taking in the sights and sounds of nature, connecting with the earth beneath your feet, and soaking in the sun on your face and you’ll feel more positive about yourself and life in general.
It’s likely no surprise to you, but even moderate green exercise releases chemicals in the brain that actually reverse the damaging effects of stress and restore the body to a state of peace. Make this your quiet time with nature, your “me time” to just unwind and focus on your breathing and connect with yourself.
Regardless of how clean your gym is, the air is circulated throughout the building and is full of allergens and air conditioning that drys out your skin. If you have the choice to breathe in recycled air or the fresh, clean air of nature, it seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?
Tips for exercising outdoors
Choose the right time
In the summer, avoid exercising in the heat of the day as it could lead to issues such as sunstroke and heat exhaustion. Try to exercise in the morning or evening when the weather has cooled off a bit.
Find a water bottle that is comfortable to carry with you and ensure that you hydrate well ahead of time.
Try local sports
No, team sports aren’t just for school kids. Look around your community for a recreational baseball, basketball, or tennis league where you can get your exercise and meet other people who are passionate about movement.
Protect your skin
Use a mineral sunscreen on any exposed skin and cover what you can with lightweight, UV protectant clothing.
Plan for weather
Invest in appropriate workout gear that will allow you to exercise in all four seasons and make sure that you’re prepared for a sudden change in weather. However, if your plans to exercise do get interrupted, create a backup plan such as a stationary bike indoors or a series of bodyweight exercises.
-The Backyard Garden Team