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Outdoor Exercise- the Best Way to Improve Overall Health

It’s easy to see the importance of getting outside when we are cooped up inside for days at a time. Taking the opportunity to do some outdoor exercise when you can help to improve your health and wellbeing.

 

Benefits of exercising outdoors

Increased focus

Did you know that even brief stints of time outside can boost your ability to focus? Studies have shown that children with ADHD return to their studies with more focus after playing in nature for a few minutes a day. Add that to the mental refresh that comes with exercise and you’ll return to your day with more focus and feeling better than ever.

Apart from mental focus, sunlight strengthens your visual focus as well. When you’re spending a significant amount of time indoors, your eyes have to struggle to stay focused in the dim lighting, which can cause faster deterioration. Being outside, your eyes don’t need to work as hard to see, improving vision longevity.

 

Reduce anxiety and boost your mood

Exercise has been known to release endorphins to improve your mood and help to reduce anxiety, but did you know that nature has its own mental health benefits? It has been proven to reduce stress and to lower blood pressure.

It encourages deep breathing, which helps to regulate your emotions and when combined with exercise, it helps you to feel calmer and at peace with yourself.

 

A girl in standing in front of the ocean, basking in the sun with her eyes closed and her arms spread wide.

 

Change of stimulation

When you think of a big city, one of the first words that will come to mind is “bustling.” There is always so much to see, do, and think that it is easy to get overwhelmed. Big cities have constant sounds of traffic and people, bright lights and signs, and a variety of smells- both good and bad.

Nature, on the other hand, offers a calmer type of stimulation. The colours are more organic, it often offers quiet, melodious background music, and you can relax into the simplicity of the natural world. There is a reason that many major cities offer some sort of park or nearby nature reserve for its residents.

Studies show that people feel happier after a 90-minute walk in nature as compared to a 90-minute walk around an urban area.

 

Improve your physical health

Exercise is one of the pillars of good health that can increase longevity, prevent illness, and reduce pain. Being outdoors in the fresh air revitalizes your body. When you go for a swim in the sunshine- with sunscreen- your body can produce the vitamin D it needs to keep your bones strong. Going roller-skating is a great way to get some fresh oxygen and it strengthens your immune system.

 

Ideas for outdoor exercise

Running

Going for a jog around your neighbourhood is a great way to get outside and get moving. Running is a great exercise option for many people, as all you need to get started is a good pair of running shoes and comfortable clothes to move in.

Be cautious when first starting out, however, as running has a high-impact on your joints. Stretch carefully before and after you go out, start and end your running with walking, and stay hydrated. If you push too hard the first time you go out for a jog, you may need a few days to recover and attention from a physical therapist.

 

A man runs through the countryside under a beautiful partially cloudy sky.

 

Take time to stretch

When you stretch outside, be it in a park or your backyard, you allow yourself the chance for a total reset. You can focus completely on how the different stretches feel and allow your worries to melt away.

While any of WeStretch’s routines are great to do as indoor or outdoor workouts, I recommend the sports improvement options or the pain relief routines outside.

The sport improvement routines hold the poses longer than the other routines, which is perfect for allowing yourself to slow down and enjoy nature. As for relieving pain with the joint-specific routines, pain affects both your body and mind, so stretching outside allows you to work on healing yourself completely at the same time.

 

Liette is sitting in a park, stretching, while following along with WeStretch.

 

Sign up for an yoga session outside

While stretching and yoga are different modalities, they are both similar in that they are both great activities to do outdoors! Yoga is a great option if you are looking for a deeper connection within yourself. Find an outdoor yoga class near you for a social outlet that allows you to connect with yourself and the world around you.

 

Go for a bike ride

Even if you don’t have your own bicycle, there are places that will rent them out to you. A bike ride is a great way to explore your neighbourhood or a new park while getting some exercise.

 

Head out for a walk through the trees to experience ‘forest bathing’

Forest bathing is the concept of spending intentional quality time among the trees. It can be a short walk in the woods or a few days being immersed in a forest. Either way, walking while immersed in the meditative forest walking is one of the best ways to restore your mental and physical health.

 

A woman and a young child walk through a forest.

 

Making the most of your time outside.

A long walk on the beach can be just as good for you as hiking up a mountain. Find what nature is accessible to you and spend as much time in it as you can.

Be sure to be prepared as you plan to spend more time outdoors.

 

Plan for the weather

Whether you’re going exploring in a blizzard or hiking in the sunshine, be sure to prepare yourself for any possibility. Bring adequate gear and clothes, whether that means an extra waterproof windbreaker, sunscreen, or bug spay. Those extra pair of socks can save your toes from frostbite and that hat can prevent heatstroke. Planning helps you enjoy your time outside instead of being worried about problems that you could have prevented.

 

A person overlooks the warmly lit valley of clouds.

 

Stay hydrated and bring snacks

Dehydration is actually more common than we think- it’s estimated that about 75% of the American population is chronically dehydrated. Making sure you are drinking enough water, electrolyte, and sports drinks when you exercise outside is incredibly important.

While humans can survive longer without food than water, it’s still important to have some quality snacks on hand as you exercise. Find something tasty but that will benefit you and will keep well. Granola bars, bananas, and trail mix are great to have on hand, especially if you’re doing longer stretches of activity, like going for a long hike!

 

It’s recommended to spend at least 120 minutes outside a week.

While 120 minutes may seem like a lot, it’s only 2 of the 168 hours you have each week. If you want to make the most of your time outside, you can combine the 120 minutes of recommended time outside with the 150 minutes of recommended exercise to be efficient with your time and health. Spend 15 minutes one day stretching outside and the next day, go for a nice 20 minute walk.

Exercise and time outside can be an enjoyable activity that brings joy and meaning into your life. What are you going to do to start doing outdoor exercise?

 

 

Any links included are for reference, additional information, or entertainment value only, without monetary compensation. Contact us on social media or at team@westretch.ca. Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

This article is not intended to act as or replace medical advice. Please talk to your health care practitioner if you have any concerns.

 

Written by Kayla Willsey

Updated October 7, 2021