Heading out to the Great Outdoors for Better Physical and Mental Health
Gyms are a fantastic backdrop for strength training and bodybuilding, yet research shows that it is vital to take our training sessions into the Great Outdoors as often as we can. Our indoor, sedentary lifestyle and ‘divorce’ from nature, say scientists, are contributing to issues like stress, anxiety, obesity, and other conditions. By exercising or simply going for a walk in natural, green settings, we can help keep our health at an optimal condition and feel more relaxed and uplifted than ever.
Outdoor Exercise Burns More Calories and is More Enjoyable
Gyms play an important role in fitness, especially when the weather outside is inclement or we are pressed for time. Outdoor exercise is also key for integral fitness, however, since research has shown that we burn more calories when we work out outside (because of the changes of terrain, wind resistance, etc.).
Studies have shown that participants who were asked to walk on a treadmill and outdoors, had a significantly higher preference for outdoor exercise, reporting that it helped them feel less tired and depressed, and more enthusiastic and happy, than indoor workouts.
The Sun and Vitamin D
Many people who live in colder climes can lack exposure to the sun, which is one of our main sources of Vitamin D. The sun is vital for keeping osteoporosis at bay, which is why the National Osteoporosis Society suggests we spend at least 10 minutes a day in the sun (during peak hours) in the winter, and outdoor exercise is a great way to ensure we comply with this recommendation.
The Outdoors Keeps us More Active
A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics has revealed that children who spend more time outdoors are more likely to take part in moderate to vigorous exercise. The findings are a wake-up call for parents to make their garden a more attractive, useful place for kids to exercise in.
Place a volleyball net, soccer goals or other sports facilities in your garden to inspire kids. For something a bit more Zen, use décor features such as outdoor water fountains, colorful banners and wooden decks to help lead children into a state of relaxation through a bit of outdoor yoga or mindfulness meditation!
Nature Boosts Mental Health
In case you thought the Great Outdoors only made us fitter and leaner, think again! Study after study has shown that simply being in a verdant setting (such as a forest or park) lowers levels of stress hormone, cortisol. It also lifts our mood and helps battle the symptoms of depression and anxiety, which is why outdoor exercise, horticultural therapy and outdoor sport is often an important part of rehabilitation for stress related conditions.
Rather than lament how stressful life can be, try to make time daily for at least half an hour outside. Whether you go for a run, head for a forest to meditate, or simply sit in your garden opening your senses to the sights and sounds of nature, you will reap powerful benefits for many years to come.
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