Change it up – exercise outside!
By Tayla Chin
Exercising regularly has been shown to reduce the risk of developing many life threatening conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, hypertension and diabetes (1). Studies have also shown a marked improvement in psychological wellbeing, particularly improved moods and stress management, as a result of exercise (1). Despite this, a large majority of people do little or no exercise at all.
It is possible that the environment in which we exercise affects our enjoyment and therefore our motivation to train. Plante et al (2007) showed that outdoor exercise made people feel calmer than indoor exercise and increased their enjoyment. There is also evidence of fewer negative emotions, such as anger and sadness, after exercising in a natural environment (2). In order for an environment to have a greater impact on stress levels and mood, it must be attractive and free of stressors (3).
Factors that are effective in promoting outdoor activity are access to pavements and trails, street lighting, the amount of traffic, aesthetic quality and the cleanliness of the neighbourhood (3).
A pleasant, stress free environment also improves motivation to train more often. In a study by Duvall (2011), adults who walked outdoors reported more time spent walking than those who walked indoors on a treadmill (3). Outdoor exercise also increases vitamin D levels, which are particularly low in those who are overweight or obese (4).
We all know that exercise helps reduce the risk of many life threatening diseases and improves overall health and happiness. Exercising in nature improves mood, motivation to train, reduces stress levels and increases exposure to the sun which raises vitamin D levels. While it’s not essential to train outdoors, there are so many health benefits in addition to those associated with exercise in general. Plus, fresh air and beautiful surroundings will make anyone feel healthier and happier!
- Plante TG, Gores C, Brecht C, Carrow J, Imbs A, Willemsen E. Does exercise environment enhance the psychological benefits of exercise for women? Int J Stress Manag [Internet]. 2007 [cited 2015 Oct 18];14(1):88–98. Available from: http://doi.apa.org/getdoi.cfm?doi=10.1037/1072-5245.14.1.88
- Bowler DE, Buyung-Ali LM, Knight TM, Pullin AS. A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments. BMC Public Health [Internet]. 2010 Jan;10:456. Available from: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2924288&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract
- Duvall J. Enhancing the benefits of outdoor walking with cognitive engagement strategies. J Environ Psychol [Internet]. 2011 Mar [cited 2015 Sep 29];31(1):27–35. Available from: http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S027249441000083
- Florez H, Martinez R, Chacra W, Stickman-Stein N, Levis S. Outdoor exercise reduces the risk of hypovitaminosis D in the obese. J Steroid Biochem and Molecular Biol. 2007 Mar. 103(3-5): 679=681.