People think I am absolutely insane for working out at the hour in the morning that I do during the week (I fully admit 430-530am is early, but it’s just how my life rolls) and the fact that I work out outside year round here in New England adds a whole new level of bonkers! I run outside so that I can be efficient, work out while getting my dogs their daily exercise (a kill two birds with one stone kind of thing), but who knew that my daily outdoor exercise was even more beneficial than just those two reasons? Apparently, it might not just be in my brain that my daily runs are like my daily therapy sessions; there’s now a little bit of research to back that up.
From the University of Toronto, some research has come out that shows actual physiological benefits foo running outside as opposed to working out indoors. When people work out in nature, amongst trees and far from the every day stressors of life, they have improved moods, less tension, anxiety, and stress. For example, it was found that people running outdoors, due to lower stress levels, had a lower heart rate than those running on a treadmill, showing there is less stress on your body.
I know the next argument: increasing your heart rate is good for you when doing cardio, why do you want to keep it low? Because the runs feel/are less stressful on your body, people tend to run longer and harder when they are working out outdoors as opposed to those in a gym. You also tend to work your body in different ways when outdoors; in a gym running on a treadmill, it is a very stable surface, whereas outdoors, you are jumping curbs and cracks in concrete, running on grass, sand, concrete, etc. which makes you use different muscles to stabilize your body, and your workout tends to burn more calories.
Plus, getting out of the gym, helps to change-up your routine and challenge your body more, you might try an alternate route running, or do lunges instead of running up a hill, find a low branch and pump out some pull ups. I fully realize that people think I am bonkers when I am running, then drop into 100 push ups, or do some pull-ups and dips, but it changes my workout, helps me relax, and after an awesome workout, I always feel amazing a ready to take on the challenges of the day in stride.
My phone, pager, and computer tend to be a major source of stress for me at work, and I find myself despising my work email as it chimes onto my phone when I’m not at work; even though it tends to make me more efficient, perhaps I am too efficient. When I am running, just me, my dogs, and my music, I don’t think about work, I don’t think about email, I think about the now. I focus on my breathing, how my body feels, and some days, on pushing myself to an extreme for speed, others for distance, and some days, I just jog along lost in my thoughts. It makes complete sense that being in nature and disconnected would decrease your stress and anxiety, so now you have even more of a reason to get your butt out of the gym and get into nature!
Yours in Good Health