Benefits of Outdoor Exercise Confirmed/Outdoor exercise is any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness? It is performed for various reasons, including increasing growth and development, preventing aging, strengthening muscles and the cardiovascular system, honing athletic skills, weight loss or maintenance, and also for enjoyment. Many individuals choose to exercise publicly outdoors where they can congregate in groups, socialize, and enhance well-being.
Physical exercises are generally grouped into three types, depending on the overall effect they have on the human body
- Aerobic exercise – is any physical activity that uses large muscle groups and causes the body to use more oxygen than it would while resting. The goal of aerobic exercise is to increase cardiovascular endurance. Examples of aerobic exercise include running, cycling, swimming, brisk walking, skipping rope, rowing, hiking, playing tennis, continuous training, and long slow distance training.
- Anaerobic exercise – which includes strength and resistance training, can firm, strengthen, and tone muscles, as well as improve bone strength, balance, and coordination. Examples of strength moves are push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, and bicep curls using dumbbells. Anaerobic exercise also includes weight training, functional training, eccentric training, interval training, sprinting, and high-intensity interval training increase short-term muscle strength.
- Flexibility exercises stretch and lengthen muscles – Activities such as stretching help to improve joint flexibility and keep muscles limber The goal is to improve the range of motion which can reduce the chance of injury.
Physical exercise can also include training that focuses on accuracy, agility, power, and speed.
- Sometimes the terms ‘dynamic’ and ‘static’ are used. ‘Dynamic’ exercises such as steady running, tend to produce a lowering of the diastolic blood pressure during exercise, due to the improved blood flow. Conversely, static exercise (such as weight-lifting) can cause the systolic pressure to rise significantly (during the exercise).
The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
- There is no debating the health benefits of daily exercise. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health all agree that we need at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity every day. The good news is that you don’t have to work out in a gym to get in shape. Outdoor exercises are just as effective, can be more fun, and have some appealing advantages.
Reasons to Take Your Workouts Outside
Outdoor fitness can be a structured exercise program that takes advantage of the natural terrain of the outdoors to get you in shape, or it can be as simple as taking a brisk walk outside. Outdoor fitness can take many forms: Raking leaves, for example, is considered moderate physical activity. If you weigh about 135 pounds, you can burn close to 250 calories by raking leaves for an hour.
Whichever way you choose to exercise outside, there are numerous benefits
- No membership fees – The outdoors belongs to all of us. “You don’t need any special equipment — the outdoors is available wherever you are, just outside your door,” says Tina Vindum, the author of Tina Vindum’s Outdoor Fitness: Step Out of the Gym into the Best Shape of Your Life and the first outdoor fitness instructor accredited by the American Council on Exercise.
- The air is cleaner – The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that indoor air is more than twice as polluted as outdoor air.
- A free daily dose of D – Scientists recommend outdoor exercise as a way to get your vitamin D through sunlight. This is especially important if you are overweight — a recent study found that people who are overweight are almost twice as likely to be deficient in vitamin D.
- Exercise for your mind – When you exercise outdoors, your mind becomes aware of the changing terrain. Whether you use the hills, the sand on a beach, or a winding path, your mind has to focus differently than it would on a flat gym floor,” notes Vindum.
Getting Started With Outdoor Exercise
If you have any health issues, talk to your doctor before starting an outdoor fitness program. “I tell my people to have a goal in mind, start slowly, and work up to their potential. Outdoor exercise can be adapted to anyone’s level of fitness,” advises Vindum.
Here are guidelines to get you going
- Exercise early – “People can always find more excuses to avoid exercising outdoors at the end of the day,” says Vindum. In the morning your energy is higher, the air is generally cleaner, the temperature is lower, and you will feel better all day long.
- Avoid temperature extremes – Although your body can adapt to colder or warmer weather, you should avoid exercising outside in extreme heat or cold.
- Don’t get burned – Although some sun is good for you, too much sun is not. “Always protect yourself with a good sunscreen, and wear sunglasses and a hat with a brim,” advises Vindum.
- Drink enough water – If you drink about 8 to 10 ounces of water 30 minutes before doing outdoor exercises, it should hydrate you sufficiently for a 30-minute workout. You don’t need water with electrolytes in most cases,” says Vindum. Remember that you can lose water through sweating even in cooler weather, and you may start to get dehydrated before you feel thirsty.
- Get some good gear – Take advantage of the new technology that has gone into shoe treads and waterproof, breathable clothing material,” advises Vindum.
- Make outdoor exercises part of your lifestyle – You can learn exercises that use only bodyweight and gravity and do them while you are walking to the post office, Vindum says. Think about walking instead of driving. Plan outdoor activities with your family. Go for a hike instead of a drive.
“Why would you need bottled aromatherapy when you can go outside and smell nature? Outside exercise uses all your senses and connects your body and mind. As you become more physically fit, your mind also becomes more aware
|Theme||Subthemes||Studies Supporting Subthemes||Supporting Quotations from Qualitative Data||Evidence from Survey Data|
Pursuit of health
|[rx,rx,rx,rx,rx,rx]||“I have a frozen shoulder problem, so I came to the park to do some arm stretches, and then, I came frequently to do the pull. Now, I feel that my shoulder is getting better and becoming more relaxed.” [rx]
“I had two discs in my back that were dislocated and I like to work out and stay in shape and keep my body strong and stuff. So I use it kind of as a therapy.” [rx]
“You will feel happier after using the equipment. It is good.” [rx]
“The air quality is good here and [I am] happier after having exercise.” [rx]
|39% of the fitness zone users reported that losing weight was the most common reason for using the fitness equipment (n = 345). [rx]
Survey respondents rated on average 3.45 (SD = 1.59) on a 7-point Likert-scale on the statement ‘I feel fitter because I use this equipment’(n = 182). [rx]
|Social connectedness||New friendship
Benefits to family
Encouragement of other people
|[rx,rx,rx,rx,rx]||“You come here frequently and you become familiar with the other people here; then, you become friends.” [rx]
“Very good, it seems like a family in this park … we become friends so we come every day.” [rx]
“Just a lot handier than actually going to the gym, I can bring my kid here and still get a workout in.” [rx]
|Affordable||Free of charge||[rx,rx]||“I’m a low-income parent. Going to the gym is not affordable for our family. That’s not an option … it’s my only option for resistance training equipment.” [rx]||Survey respondents rated on average 3.77 (SD = 1.63) on a 7-point Likert-scale on the statement ‘I only do this type of exercise because the equipment is freely available’ (n = 180). [rx]|
|Support||Maintenance and management Inadequate
|[rx,rx,rx,rx]||“The national fitness paths in our surroundings have not been receiving any management or maintenance since they were installed.” [rx]“
… but we older adults don’t know how to use [this] equipment.” [rx]
|Design and promotion||Quantity and variety of equipment Safety Advertisement Shade Location close to attractions||[rx,rx,rx,rx]||“I don’t think there are enough things to do there that people would [go] out particularly to do it. You don’t have anything like a basketball court or something that would draw people here for the exercise. If you were drawing people here for exercise and they wanted to spend a few minutes before or after doing something like that, it might be a bit different.” [rx]
“I have to take turns to use this equipment, and it is embarrassing to ask those using the equipment to give others a turn. Some people only sit on the equipment to rest, rather than exercise.” [rx]
|Survey respondents rated on average 4.37 (SD = 1.47) on a 7-point Likert-scale on the statement ‘the [local government] should provide more equipment in the park’ (n = 180). [rx]
87% of the survey respondents combined the use of gyms with other types of exercise (n = 166). [rx]
Survey respondents rated on average 2.71 (SD = 1.29) on a 7-point Likert-scale on the statement ‘I come to this park specifically because of the stretching equipment’ (n = 183). [rx]
Six benefits of exercising in the great outdoors.
- Exercising outdoors – provides an opportunity to be physically active in a constantly changing environment. The more challenging the terrain, the harder the body has to work to sustain an efficient work rate. Cardio machines in the gym can provide numerous benefits, but doing the same movement pattern over and over again could potentially cause an overuse injury. Walking, hiking or running on terrain that is constantly changing teaches the body how to adapt to a changing environment. In addition, a constantly changing surface can enhance the strength of your connective tissue, which may help you avoid certain injuries.
- Wind resistance – can help you burn more calories. When running or cycling outdoors, you may have to deal with the wind, which can offer natural resistance. A strong headwind can help you burn more calories, as you have to work harder to overcome the resistance. A good tailwind can help you move a little faster, which activates the larger type II muscle fibers responsible for strength and definition.
- Exercising outdoors – is a great way to save money. There are many benefits of going to a gym or fitness studio, but if you need to manage your expenses, exercising outdoors is one option to save a few dollars. While going to a gym or studio can provide extra motivation to train, if you have a strong drive and motivation to reach your fitness goals, then exercising outdoors might be a good money-saving option.
- Using your local park – running on a nearby trail or simply walking around your neighborhood are all great ways to meet your neighbors. While exercise can enhance your physical health, being connected with your community and having a number of positive relationships can help improve your mental health as well. Put your phone down or close your laptop and go outside and move around in your community to enhance your real-life social network.
- Going outdoors – gives you the opportunity to turn your exercise time into family time. There is nothing wrong with dropping your kids off at the daycare to take your favorite group fitness class, but it’s also important to exercise with your kids and show them that physical activity can be fun. Playing at the playground, going for a hike, riding bikes or playing a sport are a few ways to be active with your kids. Playing at a park together might not be as good a workout as your favorite circuit class, but chasing your kids around and climbing the playground equipment can help you build up a good sweat.
- There is quantifiable research suggesting – that outdoor exercise provides greater benefits than sweating indoors. In one study, the researchers found that exercising outdoors “was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity.
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