Regular exercise is an important component to our general health and mental wellness. Even if you have a favorite type of training, at any point in time one can lose motivation and experience sadness, depression, or lack of motivation. Although lack of motivation from time to time is completely normal, one of the causes can be from doing the same training, in the same place, day in and day out. Though training inside a gym has many benefits—especially the ability to have cool air circulating when it’s hot outside, warmth when it’s cold, the abundant variety of equipment, and the sight of people just like ourselves working toward their goals—choosing to train outdoors may be more beneficial to your mental health. There are many people who would choose to train outdoors over being inside a gym any day, especially those who have experienced depression. It’s said that if you’re feeling depressed, one of the best ways to fight it is with outdoor exercising; even taking a brisk walk outside causes our feel-good hormones to rise. The evidence in favor of getting outside for regular exercise continues to grow—a 2012 Glasgow University study reports a 50% improvement in mental health when people are active outdoors versus at the gym. Specific improvements involved mild depression, sleep problems, stress, and feeling unable to cope. The researchers found that walking, running, biking, and other outdoor activities through green space lowered stress, The Telegraph reported. As I stated before, training indoors and outside both have great health benefits for our bodies and minds, but let’s take a closer look at why outdoor training has amazing “mental and emotional healing” benefits.
Increased Vitamin D — Sunlight helps supply the body with Vitamin D, a superstar nutrient that promotes the absorption of calcium and provides strength to bones. Vitamin D, D3 to be exact, is called the sunshine vitamin because our bodies produce it when exposed to sunlight. There are also vitamin D receptors in areas of the brain that help regulate behavior and emotion, allowing vitamin D to help fight depression and lack of motivation. Exposure to sunlight is a common treatment for depression and other mood disorders. Studies show that depressed exercisers who go for a walk outdoors feel happier and have better self-esteem than those who walk on a treadmill indoors. Endorphins, which can raise your mood and keep it stable, are released when you spend time in the sun.
Feel-good Hormones — Feel-good hormones, also known as endorphins, give your mood a natural boost. These naturally occurring hormones can make you feel better by helping to quell such things as pain, sadness, and lethargy. They also help to slow the aging process, crush stress, and give your immune system a boost. When you work out, a flood of endorphins are released. Training both indoors and outdoors will release these hormones, but the “feel-goods” are more intense outdoors due to both the exercise and the positive effects nature has on our hormone release.
Fresh Air — The air outdoors is refreshing and invigorating; you will improve your sense of wellbeing, increase alertness, decrease anxiety, and lower resting heart rate. Taking deep breaths can calm the mind, body, and spirit. When training outdoors, you are able to take in fresh oxygen to fuel our cells and maybe even help fight disease.
Change in Scenery — Working inside during the day then traveling in a car to work out indoors can have a negative effect on our state of mind. Performing the same tasks day in and day out, especially during the winter months, has been shown to spark feelings of depression and even insomnia. Changing your scenery, in combination with more exposure to natural light from the outdoors, can help fight both insomnia and depression. Outdoor training has many healing benefits that we all need to experience. If you feel as though you are in a rut or not feeling your normal self, get outside and do a workout, even for 15 minutes. Your mind will feel rejuvenated; your body will feel better. SJ McShane – As seen on Muscle and Fitness hers CLICK HERE TO SEE