Think exercising in the gym is your best option? Think again. Some experts believe that exercising outdoors is actually better for you -- both physically and mentally. On top of the health benefits, you'll also find an outdoor workout more entertaining, since you can vary your route and change the scenery.
Physical Health Benefits
Unless you suffer from allergy problems, exercising outdoors is a good way to get some fresh air into your lungs. Improved levels of oxygen in the body can strengthen the immune system, rev up your metabolism and improve your lung capacity, according to an article in the WPS Health Newsletter.
Mental Health Benefits
According to a 2011 study published in the "Environmental Science & Technology" journal, exercising outdoors has a highly beneficial impact on your mood and mental health. When comparing indoor and outdoor exercisers, researchers found that those who exercised outdoors experienced decreases in depression and tension. They also felt more energized and experienced a sense of calmness and a greater satisfaction from the workout. According to the study, outdoor exercise was also associated with greater enjoyment.
Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem among Americans, according to a 2011 study published in the "Nutrition Research" journal. In fact, researchers found that as many as 41.6 percent of the participants evaluated in the study had a vitamin D deficiency. A lack of vitamin D can increase your chances of developing osteoporosis, increase your risk of heart disease and worsen symptoms of depression. Exercising outdoors makes it easy to get your daily doses of vitamin D without even trying.
Other Health Benefits
Light exercise -- such as walking -- is often recommended to people recuperating from a long illness or surgery. Now there's evidence that light exercise done outside is more effective than the same activity done indoors -- because of the healing effect of natural light on the body. In fact, according to the systematic review called "The Effect of Sunlight on Postoperative Analgesic Medication Use," spending time outdoors can help reduce mortality, shorten hospital stays and ease pain in patients who suffered myocardial infarction. You should always talk to your doctor before you start any new exercise program -- but don't forget to discuss the benefits of exercising outdoors.
- Environmental Science & Technology: Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review
- The Times Tribune: Benefits of Outdoor Exercise Go Beyond Fitness
- Nutrition Research: Prevalence and Correlates of Vitamin D Deficiency in US Adults
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.