When I was a kid, I loved playing outdoors. My friends and I would build forts, recreate elaborate games with garden pots, watering hoses and tree branches, and generally run around until we were absolutely exhausted. Now that I have kids, I'm determined that they spend as much time outside as I did. And running around the yard with my son has made me realize something most adults don't seem to consider.
Adults could use some outdoor play time too.
Researchers are increasingly realizing some very real benefits to outdoor exercise programs:
- Increased feelings of vitality
- Decreased tension and depression
- Increased energy levels
In preliminary studies, people who participated in outdoor activities generally said they'd be likely to repeat the activity in the future, a big plus for people trying to get into an exercise routine.
While any exercise program is better than no exercise at all, there are several compelling reasons you should use your treadmill as a drying rack and take your workout to the park. Jogging, walking or resistance training outside supplies you with a (free) daily dose of the absolutely essential vitamin D, a vitamin people who are overweight are twice as likely to be deficient in.
An outdoor exercise program also requires greater focus. In the gym, you can switch on your music or television, throw a towel over the stats on the screen in front of you, and tune your mind out to what you're doing. Working out outside requires greater concentration, not only to avoid bumping into people, but also to adjust to different terrain and to regulate balance in changing conditions. Outdoor exercise programs make working out a physical and mental activity, which gives your brain a workout too.
Outdoor exercise also provides you with fresh air, which is often less polluted than the filtered air you breathe indoors. Plus, you'll probably have a harder workout, depending on how much wind resistance you have to handle.
Since high temperatures may make outdoor exercise difficult as the summer goes on, here are a few outdoor exercises you might consider while you still can.
- Take a walk (or jog) in the park. There are over 365 national parks in the US. You could go to a different national park every day for a year and still have some left over. Not that you would, but that total doesn't include state and local parks in your area. Take your workout outside and enjoy the fresh air.
- Go hiking. If you live in a more mountainous area, use the last few weeks of summer to hit the trails. Hiking provides benefits similar to the incline button on your treadmill, with the added benefit of core training (balance on uneven terrain) and beautiful surroundings.
- Run on the beach. If you're a coastal creature and really want to turbo charge your exercise program, head over to the beach for your run. The soft, uneven ground gives your legs an intense workout. Consider running close to the shoreline. The the waves lapping at your ankles can help cool you during a tough workout.
- Swim. Where ever you find yourself, there's probably a pool nearby. Swimming is a great aerobic workout that goes easy on your joints. Plus, swimming incorporates great stretching in your workout.