Inside Out: Workout Tips for Outdoor Exercise

Despite your best intentions, it's not always possible to get to the gym, even if you really wanted to.

But then, to be honest, would you really want to be sweating it out on the cross-trainer when you could be in the park having fun? Therefore, wouldn't it be great if there were a workout that gets you out in the fresh air and gives you the same total body benefits as a cardio/weights session at the gym, yet doesn't involve any pre-planning or expensive equipment?

Fresh air training has always been popular in the US and Australia where it's common for personal trainers and exercise instructors to shift classes outside and get creative with the natural resources to hand such as branches, benches, stones or steps.

Why Exercise Outdoors?

Exercising outdoors is a great way to add interest and variety to your training programme, whether it's your garden, the park or a children's playground, there are countless ways you can create a safe, effective and fun outdoor workout.

A sturdy tree branch is great for assisted chin-ups, a climbing frame for triceps dips. Stones, puddles, shadows, railings, fences, lampposts, tree trunks, picnic benches, anything can be used as an obstacle or circuit station.

Shifting just one of your weekly sessions outside can give a new edge to your regular training programme, as outside exercise equals adventure and adrenalin high. It's like being a child again, it reminds us of endless hours spent running about playing and exploring. It lets us enjoy our bodies again.

Experience the Revitalising Fresh Air

There's certainly something revitalising and motivating about exercising in the fresh air.

A comparative study by psychologists at James Cook University of Queensland, Australia, found that exercisers who run outside and focus on the environment feel less anxious, tired and depressed than indoor runners, who tend to focus more internally. This suggests that the emotional experience associated with exercise is strongly influenced by where it's done. The researchers also found that the outdoor runners had significantly higher levels of the feel-good endorphins after exercise than the indoor runners.

Outdoor exercise is not something we, as a nation, are renowned for. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Research, reveals there are great mood-uplifting gains to be made from exercising outdoors, primarily linked to the experience stimulating the senses much more than the inert gym environment. The Environmental Science and Technology Journal support this theory by suggesting that an outdoor workout will leave both your body and your mind in better shape. In addition, battling against wind and undulating terrain can lead to a greater calorie burn when comparing like-for-like exercises indoors. If you also consider that it is estimated over half of us are deficient in Vitamin D, then taking your workout into the great outdoors promises to be a real win-win.

The Health Benefits

Sports psychologists agree the time-out factor of exercising outside is certainly beneficial. We know exercise makes us feel better wherever we do it, so if you exercise in a pleasant environment with trees, open space and fresh air you're going to feel even better. Most of us lead urban, indoor lifestyles and getting outside provides a necessary release from this.

Recently there's been a real surge of interest in the healing effects of the outdoors, with psychologists looking into how nature can help relieve depression, anxiety and loneliness. The therapy, roughly defined as the study of the relationship between the human psyche and the natural environment, is known as ecopsychology. Exercising outdoors is one of the main methods being used to reconnect people with nature with therapists taking groups into the countryside to hike, camp and meditate.

For more articles like this, please explore the fitness section of our Expert Zone, or feel free to get in touch with a member of the Ragdale Hall team – we'd be delighted to help.

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