The days are getting warmer and the last thing you want to do is head to the gym for a workout on a gorgeous day. With a little creativity and imagination, however, you can replicate almost any gym exercise outside, especially if you live near a park that has a fitness course with workout stations for pull-ups, step-ups, push-ups and other body-weight exercises. Why drive to a gym to use a stair-climbing machine when almost any outdoor staircase can provide the same challenge? If you have a bike, take it out on a designated bike path for an outdoor cycling workout. Many parks have trails for running or walking that are much more enjoyable than running in place on a treadmill. These are all examples of how you can take your favorite gym workout outside. When it’s a beautiful day, take advantage of the opportunity to exercise outside and experience the following six benefits of exercising in the great outdoors.
1. Outdoor exercise provides an opportunity to be physically active in a constantly changing environment. The more challenging the terrain, the harder the body has to work to sustain an efficient work rate. Cardio machines in the gym can provide numerous benefits, but doing the same movement pattern over and over again could potentially cause an overuse injury. Walking, hiking or running on terrain that is constantly changing teaches the body how to adapt to a changing environment. In addition, a constantly changing surface can enhance the strength of your connective tissue, which may help you avoid certain injuries.
2. Wind resistance can help you burn more calories. When running or cycling outdoors, you may have to deal with the wind, which can offer natural resistance. A strong headwind can help you burn more calories, as you have to work harder to overcome the resistance. A good tailwind can help you move a little faster, which activates the larger type II muscle fibers responsible for strength and definition.
3. Exercising outdoors is a great way to save money. There are many benefits of going to a gym or fitness studio, but if you need to manage your expenses, exercising outdoors is one option to save a few dollars. While going to a gym or studio can provide extra motivation to train, if you have strong drive and motivation to reach your fitness goals, then exercising outdoors might be a good money-saving option.
4. Using your local park, running on a nearby trail or simply walking around your neighborhood are all great ways to meet your neighbors. While exercise can enhance your physical health, being connected with your community and having a number of positive relationships can help improve your mental health as well. Put your phone down or close your laptop and go outside and move around in your community to enhance your real-life social network.
5. Going outdoors gives you the opportunity to turn your exercise time into family time. There is nothing wrong with dropping your kids off at the daycare to take your favorite group fitness class, but it’s also important to exercise with your kids and show them that physical activity can be fun. Playing at the playground, going for a hike, riding bikes or playing a sport are a few ways to be active with your kids. Playing at a park together might not be as good a workout as your favorite circuit class, but chasing your kids around and climbing the playground equipment can help you build up a good sweat.
6. There is quantifiable research suggesting that outdoor exercise provides greater benefits than sweating indoors. In one study, the researchers found that exercising outdoors “was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity.”
So, the next time it’s an absolutely gorgeous day outside and you’re dreading being stuck in a dark gym, take your workout outside instead.