Green Exercise: Why Outdoor Workouts are So Much Better
This blog has not been approved by your local health department and is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice.
We all know that exercise is vital for good health—no matter whether it’s aerobic exercise, strength training, mind-body exercises like yoga, or another type of physical activity.
Before you get moving, be sure to fuel your workout with the proper nutrition to maximize all your efforts. Consider consuming simple carbohydrates. They digest easily and provide quick energy. Examples include granola bars, dried fruit and crackers. A quick meal idea could include oatmeal with a tablespoon of peanut butter and ½ cup of fruit.
But does it matter where you exercise? Can you get the same benefits from working out in the gym versus outdoors?
Research suggests that the greener your workout, the better you’re likely to feel both mentally and physically.
For instance, one study of 754 older men and women who regularly exercised found that those who walked, jogged, or did other physical activities outdoors were likely to exercise more frequently, longer, and more consistently than people who worked out indoors.
The theory is that exercising in the fresh air gives people pleasure, offers natural distractions from repetitive activity like running on a treadmill, and creates a feeling of restoration.
How? Several studies report that exercising in nature can reduce cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone. And one study found that people who biked for half an hour in nature versus in a gym talked to their exercise partners for an extra three minutes. That pleasurable interaction made them more likely than the indoor group to want to exercise again.
Another study tracked 14 men and women who biked and did strength training either indoors or outdoors. The researchers found that the outdoor group had lower blood pressure after their workout, compared to the indoor group.
And, of course, exercising outside in the sunshine helps your body produce more vitamin D, which can lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, osteoporosis, depression, and other serious health conditions.
With all this exercise, there might be some serious sweat going on, so be sure to stay hydrated. Part of living a healthy lifestyle also includes choosing products that are healthy for the planet. Say “No” to bottled water and instead choose a re-usable water bottle. If possible, choose a BPA-free water bottle because they will help reduce waste and minimize the impact of plastics on the body.
Once your workout is finished, make sure to eat something soon. One reason is that it’s important to replace the glycogen that was depleted while exercising. This is to avoid getting low blood sugar, especially for a diabetic. Second, for speedy muscle recovery, consuming protein is the way to go.
A post-workout snack could include 2 graham crackers with a slice of whole wheat toast while a post-workout meal could include a veggie omelet with avocado and ½ cup of roasted potatoes or a protein shake. Add nutritional value to your protein shake ingredients like spinach or kale, chia seeds and more!
So whether it’s a lap around the high school track, a walk on a beach, a bike ride through the mountains, or tai chi in the park, consider throwing a little green time into your next exercise session.