I have to confess I love the sunshine! There is nothing better than being outdoors when the weather is fine and watching the sun go down. Being a fitness fanatic I love to change my workouts in the Summer months and get myself out of the air-conditioned gym and breathing fresh air while I exercise. But for those that like to train outdoors, there may be more benefits than just the sunshine on your face. Scientists have shown that outdoor exercise can reap many rewards that cannot be replicated by working out in the gym.
In the winter months I often add a treadmill routine to my program. Yet I always notice that when I start running outdoors I struggle to cover anywhere near the same distance as I can on the treadmill. Why? Outdoor running is harder. From the uneven surfaces that we run on to the wind resistance, we have to push our bodies harder to cover the same distance. I always find running downhill quite tough. Most people who don’t run assume running downhill is easy (like riding a bike!) but in fact when you run downhill you use muscles that just don’t get worked when running on a treadmill (you certainly cannot replicate downhill runs in the gym).
But apart from the physical advantages of changing your routine, outdoor exercise can have fundamental advantages to our mental health. Studies have shown that exercising outdoors can boost mood by up to 50%, compared to training in the gym. Outdoor fitness can decrease tenions, anxiety and depression and it seems that green countryside has a positive effect on mood. Sunlight, open space and scenary make a significant difference to our enjoyment of exercise and studies even show that a 20 minute walk through a country park has a much more mood boosting effect than a similar walk through a busy city. It seems our exercise environment matters.
Outdoor exercise can get us motivated and this in itself can help to keep us more consistent with exercise. We all know that changing a routine is one of the best ways to achieve results. So whether you prefer to run, cycle, shoot hoops, play tennis or just walk – make the most of the weather for a positive change in your fitness routine.