One of the keys to success for people who start exercising is to find the proper mode of exercise for each individual so that they can enjoy what they are doing. I always encourage people to exercise outdoors. Although joining a gym or seeing a trainer in the gym is certainly beneficial, exercising outdoors just seems to have something that the indoor workouts don’t have. As someone who began exercising outdoors, I can tell you that there really is nothing like it. But what is the “it” that the fans of outdoor workouts are raving about?
We all know that a sedentary indoor lifestyle has become the norm. In addition, overuse of electronic media elevates stress and reduces concentration and productivity. It isn’t just obesity we are fighting, it is also stress and mood disorders, and when you go outdoors, all three areas are helped greatly.
Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. Anti-depression medication, such as Prozac and Zoloft, are the most prescribed class of drugs in the United States today. In 2005, 115 million prescriptions were handed out. We don’t know yet how and why these medications work and they can be quite expensive, especially when coupled together with psychotherapy.
There seems to be a simple and inexpensive alternative. Exercise isn’t just for our physiological problems. It is imperative for our mental health as well and the outdoors works better in that regard. It is been proven conclusively that exercise is very helpful for people with depression and anxiety. It is considered to be the number one treatment for stress and can reduce a large percentage of a person’s stress. Taking all that and using it outdoors gets even better results. Have you ever noticed how much better you feel about life after a brisk half-hour walk? Recent studies have shown that exercise can be just as effective at fighting depression in many cases, as anti-depression drugs are.
A 2011 study concluded; “Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feeling of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression and increased energy.”
Further studies have shown that people who are water enthusiasts (swimmers and fishermen) are more relaxed and have a larger “cognitive reserve” to keep the brain from getting damaged. A study conducted in Japan in 2012 indicated that walking in a forest decreases physiological measures such as heart rate and blood pressure. Whether you rely on the studies or your own experiences, getting outdoors is advantageous—AND IT DOESN’T COST ANYTHING!
How can we incorporate outdoor exercise into our routine? Let’s be practical. Not many of us have time to do hours of walking or hiking, but there are practical things we can do. If you swim, you can walk all or part of the way to the pool. The same is true if you go to the gym. Walk briskly to the gym, do your core and resistance training there and then walk home briskly again. Biking to work or school and back can also give you the outdoor aerobic experience. If you don’t have the time to do 30-40 minutes in a row outdoors, then fit is in when you can. Bouts of 10 minutes each of brisk walking are almost as good as doing 30-40 minutes straight. Try at least a few times of week to find an area that doesn’t have a lot of traffic and congestion. Green areas or places near water can be very relaxing. Fast walking in the forest or on the banks of a river or ocean are good choices. And if you want to juice up your workout a little bit, hills and stairways will give you an added benefit for the same amount of time.
Make sure that you are dressed appropriately with loose-fitting clothes and a hat in the summer and warm clothes that cover the extremities in the winter. In all cases, make sure you that drink water before, during and after exercise so you stay hydrated. And if your sessions go beyond 20-30 minutes, sunscreen is a good idea. On days with excessive heat, exercise early in the morning or closer to sunset.
There is one other thing to take note of. When you get on a treadmill or other piece of exercise equipment, you set it for 30, 35, or 40 minutes. When the time is up, it’s up! When you are outdoors and it is a beautiful day and the scenery is nice, you just might stay out a little longer and go a little bit farther. And like we said before, this is a lot cheaper than a gym membership.
Exercising is vital to our health. Taking your workouts outdoors will “add hours to your days, days to your years, and years to your lives.”