Clients (and people wanting free information 😊) ask all the time: WHAT is the best type of exercise to help me…? Simply put, any exercise you like to do and will do consistently is best for you. And while any exercise is better than no exercise, does WHERE you exercise make a difference? As kids, to get exercise, we went outside. As adults, why do we heard ourselves into giant boxes? While many people swear by the communal act of working out in gyms, exercising outside actually provides a heap of benefits that gyms do not.
- Increased Endorphins
Yes all exercise releases endorphins, but the environmental stimuli from exercising outside increases the amount in which is released, as well as those of serotonin and dopamine. This leads to increased feelings of happiness, overall well-being, as well as…
- Helps decrease stress (even more)
With that increased release of “the happy hormones”, levels of perceived stress decrease and a feeling of being at ease. The simple act of being outside in nature has been shown to have a positive impact on stress levels as well.
- Vitamin D
As our body does not make Vitamin D naturally, we need the sun to help stimulate Vitamin D production. As little as 15 minutes spent in the sun per day is enough to get the natural benefits. Can’t say that about those harsh gym lights.
- Lower Perceived Exertion
It has been shown that exercise of the same intensity is perceived to be easier when done outside vs in the gym. Whether it is the natural distraction or the belief that “the gym is hard”, those that workout outside have self-reported that high-intensity exercise seems easier and they can work longer. Exercise equipment companies are privy to this psychology; why do you think cardio equipment now has “real life” environment programs in which to exercise? (side note: other than weather induced, why would you ever go inside to do cardio “outside”? makes zero sense to me)
- Have to Deal with the Environment
Wind, hills, sand, temperature regulation, etc. are all environmental variables that can make outside exercise harder than in the gym. These factors are not available in a gym and can lead to increased calorie burn.
- Increased variety
The gym is the gym is the gym, even though there are different ways to exercise in the gym, the environment does not change. However, exercising outside offers a wide variety of places to workout, and each environment adds its own level of intensity. You can walk in a park or run hills or on the beach, swim, surf, or paddleboard, or take a weight to the beach or park and complete a total body workout. Not only does this challenge your body in different ways, the increased variety can keep you interested and committed to continuing exercising
- Decrease wait time
There is no waiting for a bench or weights or treadmill, etc. Also, there is no need to wonder if Sweaty McSwampbutt wiped off his machine after using it.
- Eliminates excuses
Going to the gym often requires packing a bag (sometimes getting all the way to the gym only to realize you forgot your bag), getting in the car, dealing with traffic, fighting the crowds in the gym, etc. etc. etc.. Outside exercise literally only takes opening the door and going for a walk, run, or full bodyweight workout. Easy.
- Cost effective
While gym memberships can cost 20, 50, 100 dollars or more a month, and being charged whether you are using it or not, exercising outside is usually completely free (unless you’re in New Jersey and have to pay to get on the beach…SMH) and accessible to anyone. Many parks now even have fit stations with things like sit-up boards, pull-up bars, etc. that can be incorporated into your workout. But you don’t even need those things; a bench (step-ups, dips, incline and decline push-ups, bulgarian squats, etc), a rock (used as extra weight), a tree (inverted push-ups, wall-sits, etc.) can all be incorporated and used to build an amazing total body workout.
So unless going to the gym is the absolute only way you will or can workout, why not give training outside a try for a change? While it does come with many benefits, you may just find other reasons you love it beyond what has been listed. Get outside, soak up some sun, get a great workout, enjoy the stress relief, and have fun!