The great outdoors. Nothing beats it, right? Okay, maybe a Pilates class in an air conditioned studio, but there are some serious benefits to exercising outside, along with a few downsides of course. Let’s take a look at the pros and the cons to determine where we’ll be taking our next workout.
It’s a Natural Antidepressant
Nature has a calming effect on the body and the mind. A study found that participants who went on a 90-minute walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and reduced activity in the area of the brain linked to mental illness compared to those who walked through an urban environment.
We Can Make It Social
It can be tough keeping up with a busy social schedule and finding the time to work out, so why not turn exercise into a social outing? Change that coffee date for a walk and talk, or try a park run with a friend.
Outdoor exercise doesn’t require an expensive gym membership. You only need to step outside! If it’s the drive to the gym that’s killing your motivation, try going for a gentle jog or walk around your local park - no excuses!
It Challenges The Body
Exercising outdoors challenges the body in ways you may not even notice. For example, when running outside, you achieve greater muscle activation than you would when running on a treadmill because your feet have to propel you forward. Similarly, when running outside you won’t be running in a strictly linear pattern, in weathering rough terrain and jumping across curbs you’ll be activating more muscles.
Get That Fresh Air
Sometimes we just need a bit of fresh air. Fresh air is often more oxygen-rich and cleaner than the air inside, which can help to strengthen the lungs and improve respiratory function. Plus, it’s a chance to get that vitamin D. Granted it’s not always sunny, but when it is, we’ll be soaking up all the vitamin D we can get, helping to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which is essential for maintaining healthy bones and muscles.
It’s Weather Dependent
One of the biggest drawbacks of outdoor exercise is the weather. Sadly, we can’t control the weather, which can scupper scheduled workout plans.
You’re Out in Public
Exercising outside isn’t quite the same as exercising in a gym, there’s less privacy. Navigating your way around pedestrians whilst pounding the pavement isn’t always the most fun. Or worse, quite literally running into somebody you know, red faced and sweaty. It’s not a look we want people to see.
Lack of Equipment
Sadly, our local park isn’t fitted with a bench press. The lack of equipment can make it harder to vary your workout routine and target specific muscle groups, not to mention the limited access to restrooms.
So, Which is Better?
Really, it’s down to you and your preference. There are pros and cons to both, so why not combine the two? Or if you’re really struggling, let the weather decide. Hit the gym in winter and make the most of the warmer months by taking your workout outside for that vitamin D.