If you have not considered outdoor exercise and workouts, you are missing out on one of the biggest fitness trends of the past couple of years.
Outdoor exercise can take many shapes and forms. It can be as simple as going out for a run, hiking in your local woods, or riding your bike; it can involve taking your usual strength training outdoors; it can even include signing up for something like a boot camp workout program.
The benefits of outdoor exercise have long been recognized in Europe - travel around France, for example, and you will see signs for "Parcours Sportif". These are outdoor workout circuits that typically include pull up bars, monkey bars, benches to do core exercises, and a variety of other places to jump, balance, and generally improve your fitness. They are popular throughout Europe, including countries such as Germany and Switzerland.
So what is it about outdoor exercise that attracts so many people? Let's look at five benefits of outdoor exercise:
Getting outdoors offers a great deal of variety. Not only are there numerous different types of workouts you can do, you are also exposed to something different every day - if you run on the treadmill in the gym, it's always the same. Get outside and every run is different, a new adventure for a new day.
Exposure to natural light :
Natural light is so much healthier than fluorescents, and has a host of proven health benefits. For many people, natural light, especially in winter, can reduce the symptoms of depression.
Exposure to the sun :
Despite the concerns about skin cancer, researchers are starting to realize that we need regular exposure to sunlight. Sunlight helps the body to produce Vitamin D, which ironically, is one of the main defences against cancer. Regular year round exposure to sunlight - without burning - will boost your immune system
Working on uneven ground :
Gyms are very sterile environments for the body. Everything is controlled and predictable, allowing the body to adapt quickly. Working outside, running on natural ground for example, improves core stability and works the peripheral muscles, providing a better all around workout.
Breathing fresh air :
Breathing fresh air is good for your lungs, and can be a real wakeup for those whose job sees them cooped up all day long. This is good for your lungs and your overall health.
So what type of workouts can you do outdoors? There are lots of possibitlies, but one thing is for sure - they will not be the same stale exercises you've been doing in the gym or in a class for years.
Running and walking are the simplest options - look for parks, woodlands, places with trails near you to add some real variety to your runs and walks.
Rather than running a set route because you know exactly how long it is, run by time rather than distance.
Heading out the door, knowing you'll run around 30 minutes, but not knowing exactly where you'll go, is very liberating and far more interesting. Once you get outside, get away from the idea of the same workout every day, the world opens up.