With increasingly warmer weather and longer days, spring is the perfect time of year to take a fresh approach to your workout and take it outdoors.
But aside from a change of scenery, what are the benefits of taking your workout outside? There are several good scientific reasons why you should try working in nature. Below we have gathered some of the most important benefits of working out outside.
1. Outdoor exercise can fight inflammation
Certain researchers find that people inhale aromatic plant compounds called phytocides when they are outside in nature. Phytoncides can increase the number of white blood cells that act as natural killer cells. These cells are known for supporting the immune system and are also believed to be important for fighting infections and inflammation.
Researchers have found that people who took long walks through a forest two days in a row increased their natural killer cell count by 50%. Furthermore, they became 56% more active and also remained 23% higher than usual for the month following those walks.
2. You tend to push yourself harder when working out outside
Surprisingly, people tend to spend more time working out when they work out outside. A study found that older people who exercised outside added at least 30 minutes to their exercise programs per week compared to people only working indoors.
3. Being outside lowers your blood pressure
Aside from the benefits of fresh air, being outside is actually also good for your heart. A recent study has estimated that about 10% of people suffering from high blood pressure could get their blood pressure under control if they would just spend a mere 30 minutes outside every week. The reason is partially connected to getting more fresh air and the calming effect that being outside has on the body.
Japanese health experts actually recommend people to spend time walking outdoors on a frequent basis. This practice is called shinrin-yoku and translates into “forest bathing”. Researchers in Japan have linked this type of exercise with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
4. It may affect your mental health positively
Nature can calm people and science shows that exercising outside can boost the calming effect of being outside in nature. A 2015 study found that people who walked outside in nature for 90 minutes were less likely to think of their personal problems. They also showed lesser degrees of brain activity linked to negative mood, compared to people who took similar walks in an urban setting
5. It just feels more fun
Studies suggest that people both feel better and enjoy their exercise regimens more when they exercise outside. Furthermore, exercising outdoors is also a fantastic way to escape the confines of the gym.
A review of the research on the topic has found that people who exercised outside generally reported feeling more energized, engaged and revitalized than those who worked out indoors. Moreover, the researchers have also found that people who exercise outside tend to feel less anger, tension, and negative mood changes.
6. It’s a money saver
One of the immediate benefits of exercising outdoors is that it’s completely cost-free! A recent study in England examined “green exercises”, meaning outdoor exercises. It found that outdoor activities such as dog walking, running, horseback riding and mountain biking could improve the English population’s health to such a degree that it would save around € 2,7 billion worth of financial costs related to bad health – every year!
Can you think of any other benefits of exercising outside? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!