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Why You Should Exercise Outside (and How to Do It Right)

April 10, 2014
Judi Sheppard Missett

The flowers are blooming and the sun is shining. Spring is finally emerging. After being confined to four walls all winter long, I'll bet you can't wait to rid yourself of cabin fever and get outdoors.

Did you know that nature is not only our greatest playground but also our greatest gym? Nature-based exercise reap even greater physical and mental benefits than working out in a gym. Between the fresh air and the rugged terrain, studies show that taking our fitness regimens into the great outdoors keeps us perpetually on our toes while also constantly reinvigorating our minds -- rewards you can't always obtain from the elliptical.

Still not convinced you should head outside with your workout? Here are a few additional reasons why you should consider occasionally swapping the treadmill for the trails:

    • You can work out whenever you want. Mother Nature doesn't have hours of operation or lines for the weight machines. She adapts to our plans and is ready to go whenever we are.
    • You'll ward off sickness. Gyms aren't necessarily the pinnacles of health that we imagine them to be. Aside from acting as breeding grounds for germs and bacteria, indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air.
    • You'll increase your endurance. It's incredible how a simple change of environment can help the time fly by. Being distracted by the scenery makes you less aware of your efforts and can help you lengthen your workout time!
    • You'll burn a lot more calories. I knew I could get you with this one! Diverse terrain and fluctuating weather conditions cause you to challenge your body in new ways, helping you torch 5 to 7 percent more calories than you do at the gym.

If you do decide to take your exercise routine outdoors from time to time, a few helpful hints can help you get the most out of your nature-based workout:

    • Be an early bird. Temperatures are milder, air is cleaner, and energy levels are higher in the morning. Getting your workout out of the way early also helps you feel invigorated all day long.
    • Get your fill of H2O. You can lose a significant amount of water through sweat even in cooler weather, so it's important to stay hydrated by drinking 8-10oz of water before exercising.
    • Be sun safe. While some amount of sun is good and provides us with vitamin D, too much can be harmful. Always wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a brimmed hat for ultimate protection.

Now is the perfect time to start taking advantage of the warmer weather. Whether you opt for the stationary bike or your mountain bike this spring, I commend you for continuing to exercise and encourage you to get outdoors once in a while to enjoy nature while getting a stellar workout!

What's your favorite way to take your workout outside? Share it with us by leaving a comment.