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benefits of exercising outdoors

benefits of exercising outdoors

3/10/12

For those of you that live in Northern Virginia, we all experienced a very mild winter with sporadic days of warmer weather that felt like spring.  I think most of us can admit that the spring season feels like it has arrived early.  Spring happens to be one of my favorite seasons because I can take advantage of the beautiful crisp days by taking my workouts outdoors.  That's not to say that I can't workout outdoors in the winter, but I prefer warmer days.  I am a huge advocate of working outdoors when the opportunity is presented and here is why:  

1) BURN MORE CALORIES: When exercising outdoors, our bodies have to overcome ground reaction forces and other environmental forces such as wind, heat and cold and the changes in terrain. Because of this, more muscles are recruited to perform work, thus burning more calories compared to a similar workout completed indoors. 

2) GET CREATIVE WITH FUNCTIONAL EXERCISES: By working outdoors, you will no longer have the typical exercise machines that find in a gym.  Working outdoors forces you to be more creative.  Use the track for sprints instead of the treadmill, the stairs instead of the stepmill, or bring a kettlebell, resistance bands or a TRX to suspend if you have one.  I can assure you that these are great tools to invest in purchasing since you can travel with these anywhere you go! In addition, functional exercises improve every day lifestyle activity and increase mobility, flexibility and improve postural deviations.

3) CONVENIENCE: "I will be traveling and I don't have access to a gym." "The gym doesn't have any machines." I have heard all of the excuses!  If you don't have access to a gym, guess what?! You have the outdoors where ever you go!  When traveling, search the nearest park, school track and field and trail and there you have it - an opportunity to exercise outdoors.  No excuses!

4) EXPOSURE TO VITAMIN D: Just by being outside, the sunlight will provide us vitamin D.  In addition, by exercising outdoors, we can breathe in fresh air and experience the freedom of movement compared to being stuck inside an office or a gym especially those without windows!  You might sport not only a rockin' body, but a little tan! ;) Just make sure you slather on some sunscreen prior to heading outdoors.

5) IMPROVES MOOD: Sometimes exercising in the gym can become boring and one of the ways to break up this boredom pattern is by exercising outdoors. Just being outside improves your mood, sense of well-being and provides mental stimulation.  Endorphins, which can improve our mood, are released when we are exposed to sunlight.  So next time you are in a bad mood, grab a workout outside!

6) IT'S FREE!: One of the great things about working outdoors is that it's free! A gym membership is never free and there is no cost to walk, bike or run outside or take advantage of the nearby trails, tracks and local parks.  There is more space and freedom and you don't have to pay a penny to experience any of it!