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Friday, August 08, 2014

Why Exercising Outdoors is Better

Gyms are awesome. They’re climate-controlled environments with machines that can work every body part, and a place to shower at the end of your workout. Some even have snack bars where you can buy smoothies, cold-pressed juices and supplements to boost the effects of your workout. If you belong to a 24-hour facility, you can work out at any time, day or night.

The thing is, as awesome as gyms are, there are a lot of reasons why exercising outside is actually better.

You’ll Get a Better Workout

One of the biggest problems with the cardio machines at the gym is that they are predictable. Even if you can set them to a random program, it’s still a program and it’s not nearly as random as you think. In fact, if you do the same “random” program at the same level and for the same duration every time you use the machine, you will notice that there is definitely a pattern. Your body gets used to these patterns and will adjust to perform those motions more efficiently. This means that you will no longer be getting as much out of your exercise routine.

Doing your cardio outdoors brings that element of unpredictability back to your exercise routine. Even if you travel the same route very day, weather conditions, the texture of the road surface and other factors can make subtle changes to the route from day to day.

Outdoor exercise also causes you to use your muscles differently than you would on a machine. People tend to flex their ankles more, when running outdoors. Also, studies have shown that people who run on a treadmill expend less energy than those running outside, because they don’t have to deal with wind resistance and other factors.

Similarly, with the right set of rollerblades, you will expend more energy exercising outdoors than on a flat, indoor track.

You’ll Exercise Longer

Exercising outdoors can actually make the exercise seem easier, allowing you to do it longer. Some of this is attributed to studies that indicate people feel a greater sense of happiness and well being when exercising outdoors. In one study, two different groups of volunteers were asked to walk for the same duration or distance – one indoors on a treadmill, and one outdoors; the group that walked outdoors shows significantly higher levels of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem than the indoor group. They also showed lower levels or depression, tension, and fatigue.

You’ll Make More Vitamin D

Your body makes vitamin D from sunlight. People who live in colder climates often have lower vitamin D levels than people from sunny areas. For this reason, it’s crucial to get a little direct sunlight whenever it’s available, and outdoor exercise can do that for you. The vitamin D has two major benefits, it helps strengthen your bones and it can actually help elevate your mood.

The best part is that a little goes a long way. A mere 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure is enough to jump start vitamin D production, after which you can apply sunscreen to protect your skin.

It’s Cheaper

Exercising outdoors not only saves you on the cost of your gym membership, it can also save you transportation costs. For example, if you hop on a bike or strap on a pair of rollerblades, instead of driving your car, you'll save gas when running small errands. If your city has a good transportation system, you can walk and bus to and from work and save money on gas and parking.

Also, because you’re using your car less often, and not using the gym’s electricity, heating and cooling, and water, you are reducing your environmental impact with fewer emissions, less use of non-renewable energy.

It’s Healthier

Believe it or not, gyms can be hot-beds of germs, bacteria, and other infectious materials. Colds, flu, jock itch, athlete’s foot, and even MRSA can be found at any gym.

While gyms do have staff members who clean the equipment, there is no way they can keep up with everyone. Additionally, because the air is often recycled, even if you religiously clean every piece of equipment before you use it, there’s still a chance you could get sick just from someone sneezing – like you would in the enclosed environment of an airplane.

You can actually avoid a lot of that by exercising outdoors.

Conclusion 

All of this is not to say that you should completely ditch your gym membership. As we stated before, there are a lot of reasons why gyms are awesome. Also, people like the elderly and the ill need gyms because they are safe and controlled environments. However, even those who need the safety of the indoors can benefit from getting outdoors once in a while.

So, if you want to be healthier and get more out of your exercise routine, get yourself outside.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

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