I recently took a three day backpacking trip to Yosemite. I know… your wondering how crazy is that? Probably thinking… doesn’t she get enough exercise? After all that is her line of work!
Well yes, I do get plenty of exercise but I love being outside and when I exercise outside I find it can be more strenuous, invigorating and more challenging then my gym workouts could ever be. That euphoric happy feeling lasts a bit longer than it does with my usual gym workouts as well.
The reason for this is that in the gym every piece of equipment we use works the same way every time. I can alter the reps or the weight or how I work the muscles but those options are limited. Outdoor conditions such as the wind, sun, hills and even rain effect how hard I have to work. Every time I get on my bike and ride up the coast it is different depending on the weather conditions and time of year. An easy cycle in June can be a hard one in March given our March winds. A walk on the ranch can be cold on a foggy day forcing my metabolism to speed up as it uses more energy to keep my body warm. This year my backpacking trip was different because there was a fire in the area of our usual route. This forced us to go higher up(think elevation) and do a loop that was much harder and rockier than than our other route and we got caught in a thunder and hail storm. Talk about an adrenaline rush!! Walking, hiking or running on terrain that is constantly changing teaches the body how to adapt to a changing environment and a constantly changing surface can enhance the strength of your connective tissue, which may help you avoid certain injuries. Many years ago we spent all of our time outside in nature. Today, most of us spend more than 90 percent of our time indoors. This creates problems for many of us. We don’t get enough sun exposure, we don’t experience the cooling, relaxing effects brought on by nature and many of us don’t get a restful nights sleep.
There is no doubt breathing fresh air verses breathing recycled air is better for you. Fresh air will give you more energy. Just 20 minutes of working out outside is equivalent to drinking one cup of coffee in terms of its energy-boosting effects.
Workouts outside help you disconnect from everyday technology. I find when I’m outdoors my mind can wander more easily, my stress level drops and I can appreciate the beauty of nature that surrounds me. Researchers have discovered that outside workouts have a greater positive effect on mental health and it is linked to a decrease in feelings of tension, anger and reduces symptoms of depression.
Outside workouts help you absorb Vitamin D which regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus helping to facilitate normal immune system function. Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth as well as improved resistance against certain diseases. Did you know extra calcium and vitamin D has appetite-suppressing effects too?
Be spontaneous. Don’t plan everything down to the tiniest details. Adjust your workout and intensity according to how you feel and don’t be afraid to mix things up as you go. Whatever you do have fun!