Many of us are tired of what I call the Tyranny of the Gym. Between driving time and time at the gym, it can take a two-hour chunk out of your day. You have to exercise on their schedule. You get an extra helping of guilt if you miss a session. And they charge money!
Why not exercise in the great outdoors – on your terms? Here are ten good reasons why you should… Being outdoors can help us age in a happier and healthier way.
A research paper published by the Journal of Aging states that spending time outside every day can help seniors maintain their health longer – as well as helping them function normally and improve mood. In the study participants spent time outdoors every day starting at age 70. By the time they were 77, they reported better natural sleep, as well as fewer aching joints and other
typical health problems, than a control group that did not spend time outdoors. Exercise, particularly in groups, showed even more benefits than just spending time outdoors. Nature is a great stress reliever.
We were designed to be out in nature. Yet many of us spend the majority of our time in our
home, in our office, or in a car. Getting back to nature has been proven to lower stress. This has
been demonstrated subjectively – people who spend time outdoors report feeling less stressed.
There is also objective evidence, including reduced heart rates. Scientists say they don’t
understand why, but they know it works.
It is well known that the smells of the outdoors can change our moods and stress levels. For
instance, the smell of pine trees has been proven to lower anxiety and depression. And the scent
of many flowers – including roses, jasmine, and lilac – increase relaxation and lower stress.
Could that be why ladies automatically deeply breathe in the scent of roses when they receive a
bouquet? The variety of nature makes exercise more enjoyable.
The gym is “same old, same old.” Same environment, same machines, same people. The human
spirit thirsts for change. When you exercise outside – even if you do the same walk, or exercise
in the same park every day – nature always seems to hand you a surprise. The weather, the
foliage, and the skies change from day today. I find that refreshing. The air is far better outside.
No one questions that fresh air outside is far superior to recycled air. So why don’t we spend
more time outside? Not only are we breathing stale air cycled through a machine, but every time
someone coughs the air conditioning system spreads the germs throughout the building.
Fresh air gives you more energy. Just a half hour of working out outside gives you the energy
boost of a cup of coffee. So why not take half your lunch hour and enjoy the beauty God gives us
in nature? We spend far too much time indoors.
The average American spends 90% of their time indoors. Much of that time is spent using
technology. These two facts result in two types of pollution: electronic pollution from all the
signals that surround us (wifi, cellular, Bluetooth, infrared); and airborne contaminants (which
are 3 to 5 times higher inside than outdoors).
With our busy schedules, we can easily spend days or even weeks at a time indoors, except for
the few seconds it takes to walk from the building to the car. We need times when we disconnect
from our technology, get outside, and soak up the benefits of nature. Exercising outside is a great
way to do that. Spending time outdoors gives you free vitamins.
It’s true. Vitamin D is known as the “Sunshine Vitamin.” This can be taken in pill form, but
natural sunlight on our skin is the way God gave us to absorb this essential vitamin.
It’s very difficult for us to get sufficient vitamin D from foods, so we are designed to get
between 80 to 90 percent of our daily requirements from the sun. Humans need vitamin D for
bone growth, cell growth, inflammation reduction, and neuromuscular and immune function. 10
to 15 minutes of sun on your skin each day can give you what your body craves. Being outdoors gives us joy.
Research demonstrates exercising outside adds a 50 percent better positive effect on our mood
than going to the gym. Working out outdoors reduces depression, stress, tension, and anger.
In addition to helping decrease negatives, spending more time with nature accentuates the
positive. We don’t know exactly why this happens in our bodies, but spending time outdoors
improves our mood. We tend to think of the positive side of situations, and just generally feel
happier. One theory is that we respond positively to things that are good for us. We like things
that are good for us, which is why trees (which provide food and shelter) and being outdoors, in
general, can help lift our moods. Getting outside makes exercise easier.
A British university study demonstrated that the color green in trees, bushes, and grass makes it
easier to exercise. This interesting research project had seniors exercise in front of walls painted
in various colors. Those who worked out by the green walls reported fewer mood disturbances
and said that they felt less exertion from their exercise. Could this be because we were designed
by our Creator to exercise outdoors? Of course, we could paint the walls of all gyms green. But
other research showed that people who exercise outside are more enthusiastic about doing so
again than those who did their workouts in either a commercial gym or one at home. Nature increases brain function.
Enjoying nature has been proven to benefit your brain in two way. A study published by the
National Institutes of health compared concentration levels on the same activities performed both
inside and outdoors. Participants showed greater concentration skills and were less distracted.
Being outdoors also increase both creativity and creative production, according to a study
published by the Jornal of Experimental Psychology. Greater concentration, increased creativity,
and fresh air – all just by getting up and going out! You'll burn more calories outside.
The number of calories burned using typical gym equipment is limited. Of course, you can adjust
the tension, the incline on the treadmill, or the amount of weight. But nothing in a gym
duplicates the complexity of training outdoors – particularly if you live somewhere that’s not all
flat ground. Working out outside promotes "muscle confusion," which can help your body burn
more calories. ("Muscle confusion" refers to differing exercise routines that keep your muscles
from getting used to one pattern of workout.)
You’ll probably also work out longer than you would at a gym because there you're likely
waiting for the clock on the wall to tell you when you’re done. Outside it’s easier to forget time
and exercise longer because you’re enjoying the beauty of nature.