As a Naturopathic Doctor, a lot of our patient education is focused around the importance of a healthy diet and stress management. Equally as important is physical exercise. The health benefits of exercise have been well documented for improvements in both physical and mental health. They include decreased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, an improvement in mood, life satisfaction and cognitive performance.
But, did you know exercising outdoors heightens the therapeutic benefits of physical activity? Just looking at pictures of nature and/or water can lower your blood pressure, stress levels and mental fatigue. So imagine what spending more time outdoors while exercising can do for you...Ancient healing in Ayurvedic medicine recommends spending time in nature every day. It allows us to connect with all our senses (sight, smell, sound, taste and touch) and manages to shift our attention to the world around us vs. the world within us. So set aside your TV, computer and/or phone and let’s take a moment to learn about the benefits of fresh air.
1. CHALLENGES YOUR BODY
The outdoor terrain is more challenging than the flat indoor surface. This allows you to burn more calories and really challenge your physical stamina. Being outdoors allows people to work at a higher workload, which helps to increase the amount of physical activity achieved.
2. IMPROVES FOCUS
Interacting with nature allows your brain to take a break from being over stimulated with computer and phone screens. Walking outdoors can also put you in more of a meditative state vs. exercising indoors.
3. VITAMIN D
In order to get the daily-recommended amount of Vitamin D from the sun you need to spend about 10-15 minutes in the sun. Being outdoors while exercising allows you to hit your daily intake of Vitamin D!
4. MENTAL RELIEF
Vitamin D can help to increase serotonin levels, our “happy hormone”. Exercising itself can produce endorphins, which are your “feel good hormones”. Imagine what the combination of releasing both of these at the same time! Being outside is also more enjoyable to your senses vs. being chained to a treadmill – making it less of a chore and easier to get that quick burst of happiness. Nature walks are linked to enhanced mental health and positivity.
5. IMPROVED SLEEP
Being active outdoors can have a positive effect on our circadian rhythm, which leads to better quality sleep.
6. SOCIAL OUTING
Exercising outdoors gives us the chance to meet people while walking, biking or gardening. It increases human interaction, which increases feelings of positivity and happiness.
7. ENHANCES CREATIVITY
90% of Canadians spend their time indoors sitting in front of a screen. This can severely deplete our cognitive resources. Spending time in natural environments can help to replenish our cognitive stores leading to improved performance!
If you are spending lots of time outdoors be sure to stay hydrated with some coconut water or with this easy electrolyte recipe:
- 1 cup of water
- ¼ tsp of sea salt
- Half a freshly squeezed lemon
Nature can be a very powerful tool, so I challenge you all to an outdoor exercise regimen for the added benefit of the healing power of nature! Research has shown that spending time outdoors can lead to improvements in mental well-being, by enhancing feelings of positivity and increased energy. So instead of being cooped up on your treadmill try gardening or heading to the beach or lake for a nice bike ride! Sorry gym rats, its time to move outdoors!
Bailey. A. (2018). Cognitive benefits of walking in natural vs. built environments. World Leisure Journal
Gladwell, V, Brown D. (2013). The Great Outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extrem Physiol Med. 2:3.