Health Benefits of Exercising Outdoors

In the 1600s, René Descartes wanted to dissect cadavers for his scientific studies. At the time, human dissection was not allowed because the prevailing religion of the time believed that damaging the body would also damage the soul. Descartes used science, philosophy, and religion to change this belief and gained access to cadavers. His ideas eventually led people to the philosophy of Mind-Body Dualism, which says that emotional, mental, and physical health (mind-body) are completely separate (dualism). 

Today, we know that our emotional, mental, and physical health are inseparable. This blog series will explore the ways our emotional, mental, and physical health are connected, and how we can use this to our advantage as we strive for better health.

We’ve heard it all before: exercise is good for you. And it’s true. But what if one simple change could dramatically improve the benefits you already get from exercise? What about the health benefits of exercising outdoors?

Exercising outside, called “green exercise,” joins physical fitness with the mental- and emotional-boosting effects of being outside. Exactly how does this work? 

Better Mood

Green exercise improves mental health more than indoor exercise does. Outdoor exercise decreases depression and anger and improves mood. Experts attribute this to sunshine’s vitamin D and cleaner air. Another factor is the varied terrain in nature, forcing us to exercise harder than we otherwise would, giving us more endorphins. Regardless of whether you’re in your backyard for HIIT, yoga, or a 10-minute walk, try it out! 

Better Self-Esteem

Just five minutes of green exercise boost self-esteem. The effects were most profound nearby water or greenery, but any place outside works well. For the best gains, use low- or moderate-intensity activity instead of high-intensity. Try cycling, walking, gardening, hiking, or camping outside. Because the outdoors have a variety of terrain, we feel more challenged, and therefore more accomplished. When we walk to the top of a hill (instead of an inclined treadmill), we feel like conquerors, and we take that accomplished feeling with us.

Better Brain Training

Exercising outdoors forces us to pay attention to our surroundings. Whether it’s the changing terrain, walking along a beach, running up a hill, our minds need to be more aware than when we’re at the gym. This added training helps our brains stay young and alert.

Better Financially

Gyms are expensive, and nature is free. Outdoor spaces, like neighborhood streets, sidewalks, or local parks, are free to the public, and they’re great places to exercise. Exercising outdoors will save money, and since money is one of the biggest stresses in adult life, it will save some mental and emotional heartache, too.

Better Access

No more stress of driving through traffic, maneuvering through crowded locker rooms, or trying to park in dark parking garages. Local areas typically have many tracks, hills, or venues for residents to take advantage of. Some towns even have outdoor exercise equipment free to users.

Better with Nature

Many of us have office jobs that keep us indoors for eight or more hours every day. Then we come home, and depending on our lifestyles, stay inside our homes. We are disconnected from nature. Green exercise gives us the opportunity to reconnect with the world around us, whether we notice some wildlife, smile at a stranger, greet a neighbor, or set up a specific time to meet friends. Exercising outdoors connects us to nature, makes us more appreciative of our world’s natural beauty, and helps us feel grounded.

Better with Others

When we exercise outdoors in our local communities, we meet people we otherwise wouldn’t know. These greater social connects allow us to develop positive relationships, and positive relationships are a huge indicator of overall health. Schedule a time to meet with friends, or take a moment to greet a fellow exerciser at the park. You just might make a new friend! If you’re a family person, take your loved ones outside with you. Listen to their stories. Develop better relationships. Get to know them. You’ll be surprised how much fun it is to put down your phone and go for a walk.

Sources: www.acefitness.org, www.everydayhealth.com 

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