The Benefits of the Great Outdoors

May 24, 2021
Parents Giving Children Piggyback Ride On Walk By Lake

After staying cooped up at home for the past year we all know what a sweet relief daily outdoor exercise can be. There are many benefits of going outside, particularly when we’ve been sitting down staring at screens for most of the day. Whether it’s doing outdoor workouts or just going for a stroll in your local park, there are so many benefits to exercising outside and breathing some fresh air. We’re going to be taking you through all the wondrous benefits of fresh air and what it can do for your mind and body.

Outdoor exercise

There are many benefits to outdoor exercise and you might feel the benefit of taking your usual gym workout outside or going on a hike using apps like AllTrails to find the best hiking trails near you. Gyms can be noisy, busy and lacking in fresh air and although that can be a great environment to workout, outdoor workouts can be a great change of scene.

  1. Less stress – there have been some studies that suggest an outdoor workout can lower your stress levels meaning that you can find it easier to reach your maximum performance. The less stress you feel, the more likely you are to work harder at your workout.
  2. Aids insomnia – one of the benefits of fresh air is that it can help you sleep better at night. Combine that with regular exercise and you’re on your way to better sleep!
  3. It’s free – the best part about outdoor exercise is that it can help your bank balance feel a bit healthier as well! There’s no cost for visiting your local park so your outdoor workout costs nothing.
  4. Save time – when you’re doing an outdoor workout in your local park, you don’t have to spend unnecessary time on a train or in your car getting to your gym. This also helps the environment as you’re not doing any unnecessary travel.
  5. Vary your environment – going to the same place to do the same workout can seriously diminish your likelihood of success. Being able to go to an outdoor gym or a variety of parks in your area is going to make you feel fresh and ready for the next outdoor workout!
  6. Cleaner air – according to the Environment Protection Agency, indoor air can be even more polluted than outside, even when you’re in a big city. This means that outdoor exercise is beneficial for your lung health as well as your fitness.

Benefits of fresh air

Another benefit of walking outside or outdoor workouts is that you get a good dose of fresh air. As we know, indoor air can be even more polluted than outside air, even in big cities. But this isn’t the only benefit to fresh air!

Fresh air helps clear out your lungs as it contains a higher level of oxygen than indoor air. Exposing yourself to more oxygen helps the blood vessels in your lungs to dilate which in turn helps them to cleanse and repair themselves. This increase in blood oxygen levels improves the amount of oxygen that’s getting to your brain and therefore increases your energy levels and the ability to concentrate. This means you’re going to get a much more focussed and energised outdoor workout!

Every cell in your body requires oxygen to function and repair itself which means that it can do this a lot faster outdoors. The increase in oxygen levels during outdoor exercise makes you feel better and heal a lot faster. There are so many benefits to fresh air especially if you’re doing a particularly strenuous workout!

Benefits of sunlight

You don’t have to be doing a strenuous workout in order to exercise outside, there are benefits to walking outside too. One of these is sunlight – if the weather decides to be on our side of course!

The main benefit of sunlight is the vitamin D – also known as the sunshine chemical. This is especially important because there aren’t a lot of other ways to get vitamin D into your system other than basking in the sun. Vitamin D is important for bone health and low vitamin D has been linked to rickets in children as well as bone-wasting diseases such as osteoporosis.

The sun can also heal a multitude of skin conditions such as: psoriasis, eczema, acne and jaundice. Light therapy might not be for everyone and it’s important to consult a dermatologist but we can all benefit from a bit more sunlight.

We all feel better when the sun is shining and it turns out there’s a real reason for that! One big benefit of sunlight is that it can really aid your mental health. Exposure to sunlight increases the body’s serotonin levels – serotonin being the brain’s happy chemical. Serotonin is linked to boosting your mood as well as triggering the chemical melatonin which helps you sleep better.

Low serotonin levels, especially in the change from summer to winter is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is where the lack of sun deteriorates our serotonin levels so severely that it leads to a depressive disorder. The prevalence of SAD shows us just how beneficial it is to get in the sun.

Forest bathing

Getting outside is so beneficial there is even a Japanese practice dedicated to getting back to nature. Shinrin Yoku, also known as forest bathing or wood bathing is the practice of immersing yourself in nature. This is achieved by mindfully activating our senses as we move through an environment, taking time to notice each element of the natural environment we’re in. By doing this, we are bathing ourselves in the forest or natural environment which is where the term forest bathing or wood bathing comes from.

People have been walking through forests for centuries but new studies show that Shinrin Yoku can actually help reduce blood pressure and improve concentration and memory. There is also a chemical that’s released by plants and trees called phytoncides has been found to boost the immune system.

With people spending more time indoors than ever before (even before the Covid-19 pandemic) there is even greater importance in immersing yourself in something such as forest bathing. We are designed to be connected to the natural world and the success of practices such as forest bathing are proof of that.

The benefits of going outside are numerous and have been shown to improve both your physical health and mental wellbeing. To find out more about how to keep your mind and body healthy, why not check out our Healthy Body & Healthy Mind blog? Or if you’re looking for more information on nutrition, there’s out Making Nutrition Simple blog to make sure you’re fuelling your body with all the right goodness.

Helpful links to find local walking trails:

  • All trails – This useful app has one clear mission – “To kindle the spirit of adventure”. Why don’t you awaken the adventurer inside of you and get outside! It doesn’t matter if want a gentle stroll or a mountain trek, there’s a trail for everyone to enjoy.
  • Hiking projects – There are so many incredible places to explore right here in the UK and the Hiking Project lets you find them all. They even categorise the trails by difficulty level so that everyone can get involved.
  • Gaia GPS – This app makes it easier then ever to find amazing hikes, parks, trails and places to explore. All you have to do is open the app and find an adventure awaiting near you.