While it’s quite obvious why one would choose to workout in a climate-controlled and conveniently located gym tricked out with tons of machines and amenities, science suggests there are greater benefits to be had from exercising outdoors instead. And those benefits go way beyond the pleasures of not having to wait in line for the elliptical machine.
In fact research has shown that overweight individuals are almost twice as likely to be deficient in vitamin D, and thus, by simply taking your workouts outdoors you’ll not only get in a good sweat, you’ll also give your body a free, healthy dose of sunlight. In addition to that, here are a few more great reasons to mix things up a bit and start taking your workouts outdoors:
1. You'll torch more calories.
Yes, gyms are awesome because they offer tons of equipment like treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes. But one dirty little secret of these types of machines is that after some time, the human body will learn to become more efficient and as a result, burn less calories than it once did during your usual treadmill workout.
This “increased efficiency-decreased calorie burn” effect is called adaptation, and one great way to combat this is to move your workouts outdoors where you’ll be met with unique external challenges like wind factor (Mother Nature's form of resistance training), temperature fluctuation (the hotter the weather, the harder your body has to work to cool down) and other external variables that will ultimately ramp up workout intensity and increase your calorie burn.
2. You’ll breathe easier and avoid nasty gym germs.
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that indoor air is actually more than twice as polluted as outdoor air. Also, while it might not seem so to the naked eye, gyms aren't always the meccas of health we make them out to be and can be breeding grounds for many germs, bacteria and viruses that can cause infections like athlete's foot, rashes, herpes simplex and ringworm.
Now one simple way to avoid these types of infections is by practicing good gym hygiene like washing your hands, wiping down equipment before and after use, and wearing flip flops in the shower. Or you can simply avoid these gym hazards altogether by taking your training outdoors! This way you’ll literally end up breathing easier by giving your lungs a healthy dose of fresh air and you’ll also avoid many of the germs that lurk in gyms.
3. You'll save money.
Depending on your budget, a gym membership could wind up being more of a financial burden than a benefit, especially if you're more of a no-show than a gym rat. That said, you don’t need a gym membership to get in shape or to stay in shape. Instead, what you can do is take the cash you would have spent on a gym membership and invest it in some portable, high-calorie-torching exercise equipment — like a weighted vest or jump rope — that you can then use to spice up any outdoor workout.
4. You’ll be happier.
I’m sure you’re all hip to the fact that exercise can be a wonderful, all-natural mood booster. Hello, runner’s high! What’s more, research has also shown that outdoor exercise can have an even greater positive effect on mood when compared to indoor exercise. For example, in a number of recent studies where volunteers were asked to go for two walks — one inside on a treadmill or around a track, and the other outdoors — the volunteers reported enjoying the outside activity more and subsequently scored significantly higher on psychological tests.
What do you think: Do outdoor workouts offer more benefits in general? Do you notice a difference in the way you feel after an indoor vs. an outdoor workout? Let me know in the comments!
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