Remember when it was -40°F and getting to class felt like a task better suited to a seasoned alpine hiker? Thankfully, those subzero days are behind us and a plethora of outdoor, open-air workouts are suddenly found on the class roster.
Why you should exercise outdoors
Not only does this mean more variety for your regular routine – it also means you can receive a pile of extra-good-for-you benefits that working out outdoors provides!
Whether your mood needs lifting, your skin needs detoxing or your muscles would love an extra challenge, here are five ways an outdoor class or run could sincerely do your body good:
The benefits of exercising outdoors include:
- Increased sweat
- Improved mood
- Workout variety
- Increased focus
- Increased strength
The body produces sweat to cool us off and keep our internal thermostat consistent. When you exercise outdoors in warmer temperatures, your system will need to sweat more to make up for the extra heat. More sweat means more detoxification: the stored toxins in our bodies, accumulated from the environment, from our food and as by-products of cellular metabolism, are released through sweat. This allows for healthier cell regeneration, glowing skin and more efficient digestion.
A daily dose of sunlight – even just 20 minutes – can significantly alter mood. Being in nature has also been shown to reduce stress, specifically the hormone cortisol, especially after alfresco exercise. In addition, sunlight helps the body produce vitamin D, a powerful mood and hormone regulator, and getting active outside has been shown to decrease anxiety and depression. So by increasing your oxygen intake and renewing your cells, you can lift your mood, amplify your energy and decrease stress. Plus, the part of our hunter-gatherer brain that loves to be outdoors activates when we’re in nature, providing a connection to something larger – most of the time, we’re connecting with our phones and screens.
Forget the same old routine with the treadmill and free weights: an outdoor workout provides dozens of different options in terrain, elevation and equipment. Variety is an important part of the functionally fit body, and by mixing up your use of the stairs, the playground, outdoor boot camps, hill runs and hikes, you challenge your muscles and mind newly every time.
Working out outdoors also builds that important organ in your head: your brain! It strengthens neurological connections by forcing you to tune in to more stimuli – The cars! The birds! The changing sunlight! – building powers of concentration and focus and providing endurance-enhancing distraction. All of the added audial and visual elements can also change your perception of how hard you’re working, so you may feel like your workout was less punishing and more fun.
The same elements that make a workout more challenging for the brain can also make it more challenging for the body. You constantly have to adjust for uneven terrain, which improves balance, endurance and strength, targeting tiny stabilizing muscles we don’t have to use as much on a flat floor or treadmill.