Sun's Out, Work Out(side)

With warmer weather comes the opportunity to enjoy a beach day, hike to see a waterfall, bike to school, or take a walk without layers of sweaters. So what are the positive effects of doing physical activity outside and why should you consider it? Learn more about the benefits of outdoor workouts and how to include them in your routine.

“Can I go play outside?” is a phrase we learn (and use… a lot) at a young age. Perhaps all we wanted was to spend time with our friends, but little did we know the many benefits of playing outside. There is no doubt that physical exercise improves your health, but it also improves your mental well-being. Specifically, exercising outside, also known as ‘green exercise’, has been shown to have a more positive psychological impact than indoor exercise.

couple running a marathon graphic

Elevates your self-esteem

A study looking at the effects of ‘green exercise’ noticed that extreme positive effects on self-esteem occurred after five minutes of outdoor exercise. Based on older studies, a short-term mental health improvement is beneficial for health in the long-term as it can protect you from future stresses. As it turns out, exercising outside will make you feel good in the moment and help you in the long term too. Getting in touch with nature never felt so good!

Improves your mood

Do you ever wonder why you feel more enthusiastic after a walk outdoors during your break? Researchers at the University of Queensland, Australia found that those who were frequently physically active outdoors had higher serotonin and endorphin levels than those who were exercising indoors. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood and contributes to feeling happy while endorphins trigger a positive feeling as well. This suggests that outdoor exercise releases feel good hormones that immediately make you happier.

Burns more calories

Being outdoors has been shown to burn more calories through the amount of energy that is required based on environmental factors. For example, running outdoors may require more energy than a treadmill due to wind resistance. Not only that but physical activity in a climate controlled environment, such as a gym, provides less of a challenge for the body which burns less calories.

More likely to continue exercising

Research has shown that due to the stimulating outdoor environment, people are more likely to exercise longer and more often when outdoors. The simple enjoyment of being outdoors and visual distraction decreases our rate of perceived exertion while simultaneously improving our mood. As a result, there is a greater intent to continue and adhere to a workout schedule.

Boost your immune system

Another perk to outdoor physical activity is the ‘immunizing effect’ it can have. Exercise alone contributes to good health, and therefore to a healthy immune system. Being outdoors, specifically in forests, has a similar effect on our body. The cellular activity within natural forests includes microorganisms and compounds given off by plants which offer a boost to our immune system.

It’s easier

Research has shown that exercising outside is perceived as less strenuous than doing the same exercise inside. Your environment plays a vital role in improving your mood, which is why feeling happier leads to perceiving an action as less work. Given that being outdoors leads to an increase in happiness, it is no surprise that changing your workout location has such a big impact on your mood!

Things to keep in mind when exercising outside:

Wear sunscreen

If you plan on going outside, it is important to wear sunscreen even if it is cloudy. Apply sun protection with 30 SPF or higher to ensure that you’re getting enough protection.

Stay hydrated

As you exercise outside, you are at a greater risk of dehydration due to warmer temperatures.  To combat this, make sure to drink water before, during and after you exercise.

Dress according to the weather

Warm weather during exercise will cause your core temperature to rise faster. For a comfortable work out, wear light and loose clothing!

There are many resources on campus that can help you meet a workout partner or find a workout program that works best for you!

For more information on resources read about Physical Activity Opportunities on Campus

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