We all have preferences on how we like to work out. Some of us swear by the treadmill; others enjoy the natural ground under their feet. This summer the challenge is skipping the indoor treadmill and TV, and heading outdoors to enjoy the warm air. I understand that it’s easier and more comfortable sometimes to hop on that treadmill and run your worries away while watching some pixelated TV screen, but that’s not as healthy as you might think.
You get more health benefits from working out outdoors. The Telegraph reported on a 2008 Scottish Health Survey that found that outdoor physical activity had a 50 percent greater positive effect on mental health than indoor activities. In addition, it had a positive effect on people dealing with anxiety and depression. The researchers, from Glasgow University, found that engaging in walking, running, biking and other outdoor activities in green space lowered stress.
A team at Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry concluded that outdoor exercise is associated with greater decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression when compared to indoor activity. The decrease is due to the “happy” chemicals in our brains: oxytocin and endorphins. These are the chemicals responsible for give you that “runners high,” or that clarity and euphoric feeling when working out. In some cases, working out in general (mainly outdoors) can be just as effective as antidepressants, according to an updated systematic review published in The Cochrane Library.
Worried about exercising amid air pollution outdoors? According to the EPA, the level of pollutants indoors may be two to five times – and occasionally more than 100 times – higher than outdoor pollutant levels. Sources are everything from building materials to cleaning products. Since you breathe harder when you exercise, by the end of your workout, you might be breathing in more toxins than if you were simply sitting there.
If you’re too lazy to go outdoors—a problem most of us have—then grab a friend; that way both of you can motivate each other through the workout. Another tip is that it’s a lot better to work out in the morning because the smog hasn’t yet set in, fewer people are out and about, and it’s not as hot. Mornings are a great way to start your day the right way!
Not sure what activities you can do outdoors besides just running on a trail or on the side of the road? Give it some thought, and you’ll come up with plenty of ideas. Just make sure you’re moving. Some of my favorites are beach running, hiking, mountain or just regular biking, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding (my new craze). Just get out there and stay active; it’s summer!