As the summer fades and the cooler weather sweeps in, the trees begin to change and so do our mind-sets. Whilst we may indulge in a few more takeout nights, or drink one or two more hot chocolates, many people also venture outside to do more outdoors activities. Hiking, walking, and a general movement away from the cities into nature seems to be a common theme for the fall months. With this general influx of interest in movement and fitness, we thought it would be a good time to give you some information on why being outdoors is healthy. We want you to know how it actually boosts not only our physical bodies, but our minds and mental wellbeing, too. So, let’s jump straight in!
One of the biggest benefits of being out in the open air is the exposure we get to sunlight. All too often we spend our days sitting in front of a computer or slaving away in a building of some sort – getting out for a stroll, a run, a hike, or even a cycle means we give our bodies a much needed boost of vitamin D. How? Well, the sunshine vitamin is one of the few that we can’t actually derive naturally from food – we get it predominantly from the sun or from fortified foods such a milk. It’s quite apt that we get it from the sun, really, as vitamin D is the ‘happy vitamin’; it helps the body produce serotonin, alleviates stress, and elevates moods. And remember… a happy body is, of course, a healthy one. So, get out for some sun!
In addition to catching a few rays, outdoor activities promote much better oxygenation in the body. You’re probably wondering why this is important, right? Well, good oxygen levels lead to greater cardiovascular health, a better aerobic capacity (fitness level), and greater muscular strength. Got your attention? Good, now get yourself outside!
As mentioned, outdoor activities and exercise isn’t just about the positive changes to your body – though these are inevitably part-and-parcel of doing them. In fact, a large proportion of the positive attributes associated with outdoor activity comes in the form of mental health. For one thing, exercising outdoors promotes a sense of adventure and excitement. Think about it for a moment – which would you rather do? Would you rather sit on your stationary bike for an hour every day or be out in the woods amongst the trees seeing new places as you cycle along? And whilst there’s nothing wrong with stationary bikes, being in new situations and places gives one a sense of accomplishment and growth, not to mention that it ultimately challenges one’s adaptation skills and expands them exponentially – this in and of itself is something worth putting on your sneakers for!
There is so much to be said for being outside. You may not know it, but being indoors for hours on end actually means that you’re depriving your mind of valuable time to connect with nature. In effect, it means you are constantly looking for ways to distract yourself from ‘being in the moment’.
Let’s take a second to unpack that. What does ‘being in the moment’ mean? Well, initially it means being conscious of those activities you’re doing while you’re doing them. In other words, it means being entirely connected to the task at hand. When we’re indoors it may mean that we have a television blaring in the background, the stove is turned on and the spaghetti is boiling over, the kids are wrecking their rooms upstairs, or your partner just fell asleep with the heating turned on high. There are always distractions inside your home or office, thus, getting outdoors is a welcome reprieve from the constant hive of activity you’re normally faced with. Being in the moment is, then, a way to connect to the world around you rather that interfering with it. You simply give yourself the opportunity to observe the world around you. Can you imagine what doing this on a daily basis would mean for you? Less stress, deeper breathing, more time to think, and so much more quality time with the ones you love. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
And there’s more! One of the biggest benefits of outdoor exercise is that your immune system will get stronger. It’s strange to think about, but it’s true. As you’re exposed to new environments, new smells, and different air, your immune system will develop better coping mechanisms when it comes to disease… and you’ll definitely be able to stave off germs in more efficient ways. This is precisely why so many experts recommend outdoor play for children – the world outside is invaluable when it comes to developing a strong immune system.
Let me tell you one last secret… outdoor exercise will help keep you young! Yes, that’s right! I’m not talking about the type of ‘young’ you get from Botox injections. Nope, what I’m talking about is the real, healthful, youthful energy you can achieve by being outdoors and doing different activities. Your joints and muscles will grow strong, you’ll become more flexible and resilient, and you’ll feel so much better about yourself. The type of strength you’ll build during outdoor activities will not only make you feel younger in and of itself, but will also mitigate the risk of injury as you get older. Doesn’t that sound amazing?
At the end of the day, it’s easy to feel tired or irritable after work, but the benefits of getting those running shoes on and heading off down the road cannot be understated. So, if you’re unsure about where to start, what to do, or even if you’re well enough to attempt outdoor activities, why not consult a professional hands-on physical therapist for advice? In the same vein, a physical therapist can also treat and secure a pain free future if you’re currently suffering from pain – he/she will help you get outdoors and into the life you’ve dreamt of living. With professional advice, stretches, and treatments, a physical therapist will get you out there in no time! So, what are you waiting for? The great outdoors awaits!