Children know what a lot of us have forgotten—being outdoors is a natural place to get moving and enjoy ourselves in the process. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a couch potato who wants to firm things up, whether you’re training for a marathon or hoping to be able to make it all the way the stairs one day, the outdoors offers endless possibilities and at least these 10 advantages over indoor exercise.
- It’s quieter than the gym. Of course ear phones are allowed, but why not just enjoy the peacefulness of a park, garden or riverside path? I love to exercise to the accompaniment of birdsong, squirrel chatter and antics, the hush of the breeze going by.
- It smells better than the gym. Hmmm . . . flowers and fresh air . . . or the stuffy sweaty gym? No brainer, I think. Oh, and did I mention that according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air can be from two to a hundred times more polluted than outdoor air?
- It’s free. Parks and outdoor spaces generally cost nothing to use, beyond the taxes you’re already paying. So, why not take advantage of something you’re already paying for?
- It’s better for the environment. you don’t need weights or machines or other equipment to get a great outdoor workout. you can do dozens of different exercises and stretches just using park benches, or walls, and anything else that’s in the environment. Since a park is usually closer than a gym, you can walk or bike there, instead of burning fossil fuel.
- It helps you get vitamin D. Our bodies make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, and we evolved spending lots of time outdoors. Today, we spend almost all day indoors, but every tissue in the body—not just our bones–has receptors for vitamin D. We need vitamin D to be healthy, but many people are deficient, especially those who don’t live near the equator.
- It’s more relaxing than indoors. I’ll bet you’ve found you just feel better and more relaxed outside. Well, that’s not your imagination. Many studies have found that exposure to natural light boosts pleasure-inducing endorphins in your brain, and spending time in nature increases feelings of well-being and revitalization while decreasing anger and depression. Yup, the secret of happiness could be just outside the door.
- It’s family-friendly. It’s a snap to bring the whole family along to a park or other outdoor area–and you won’t need childcare. Why not do your own playing around instead of just sitting on the bench–some simple exercises and stretches–while the kids are in the playground? Even more fun with a buddy or other parents.
- It’s couples-friendly. Go on, take a walk or a jog together. Sit on a bench and do some dips. Turn around, do some push ups. Then, have a nice picnic. See? That wasn’t so terrible, was it?
- It takes less time. Here’s the usual gym scenario—get there, change, work out, shower, change, get back home or to the office. You can usually get to and from a local park in few minutes and depending on your workout and the temperature, may not need to wear special clothes or take a shower after. With today’s comfortable casual styles, your “work out” clothes can be your “work” clothes.
- It feels more like play. Were you one of those kids who was always begging for “five more minutes” of play time? Being outside give a sense of freedom and “escape” that makes you want to linger and do more.
Can you think of other reasons to exercise outdoors? I’d love to hear them.