I always advocate exercising outside, and used to be really proactive with my opinions of why one should do this. I’d always pester my friends about why’d they join the gym in the summer, never understanding why they’d ever choose treadmills over trails. They’d shout out what I perceived as lame complaints of factors such as heat and weather unpredicitability, and then I’d fire back with a list of obvious-to-me reasons of why exercising outside is so superior. Eventually I settled down, realizing that everyone’s different and I should be happy for my friends’ decisions to at least incorporate a healthy exercise regimen into their lives, whether it be in the blinding, florescent-lit gym or sunshine-filled outdoors.
At least they were training their bodies so that when they did decide to eventually join me outside, they could still keep up with me during the occasional 3 v 3 basketball games or 2 hour-long tennis matches. (Although I did have the advantage when it came to dealing with and responding to the heat).
I can’t totally blame them, because in a sense, I already had the upper-hand on being inclined to choose the outdoors as my exercise setting. Growing up in the country with little else to do as an 8-year old but making “tacos” out of dirt and leaves, I was conditioned to spending many, many hours of my life piddling around outside. Many of my friends on the other hand, born and raised in the suburbs with people next door and real taco joints right down the street, didn’t quite have the same predisposition to the outdoors as I had. Plus, I was always the lucky one who never had the burdensome worry of putting on sunscreen or getting blistering sunburn. My golden tan skin just seemed to continuously soak up the sun. (I realize now this might not have been so lucky, and I should have been wearing a lot more sunscreen as a kid!)
The truth is, the main reason I so strongly prescribed exercising outdoors to others is because I myself find it to be the optimal place to do so. Sure, it’s a bit of an egocentric prescription, but I figured if running outside made me 100 times happier than running inside, it’d have to be similar for others. Being outside, especially while being active, simply just makes me happy.
I’ve learned through my various encounters with others that exercising outside may not be the optimal setting for everyone. But one thing is for sure, a little dose of the outdoors does seem to be highly beneficial for nearly all.
A recent study conducted by the University of Essex, showed that exercising in nature for just 5 minutes a day can significantly boost a person’s mood, self-esteem, and mental health. Researches analyzed the effects of activities such as walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, boating, horse-riding, and farming in the presence of nature, on 1,252 people. All types of natural, green environments produced positive healthful results, and those environments that contained water showed even higher advantages.
The effects of nature were most significantly seen on the young and mentally ill. The researches aim to increase people’s overall access to nature and use it as a form of self-medication.
Whether it’s the sunshine, the fresh-air, or the vibrant, growing life that surrounds the outdoors, there’s just something about spending time in nature that can naturally enhance your mood. Maybe you’ll choose to do that daily run inside to beat the heat, but at least try get outside and spend a little leisure time under the sun (with sunscreen of course) at some point each day. My bet is that the time spent outside will naturally put a little smile on your face, and pretty soon you may even find yourself wanting to move your run outdoors. It’s definitely a nice change of scenery, scenery that actually changes with every step you take.