health benefits of outdoor exercise

Walking every morning

ShaNay Norvell, a certified fitness instructor who leads classes at Cancer Wellness, shares seven reasons to take your workout outdoors.

“If you’re going through cancer treatment, getting outdoors can be part of the healing process,” says Norvell. “Even if you can only get outside five to 10 minutes a day, that’s great! Everyone can use some fresh air and sunshine.”

Here are some top benefits of exercising alfresco:

It’s a natural antidepressant. Outdoor exercise can help ward off seasonal affective disorder (SAD), depression and anxiety because sunshine naturally increases serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood. And exercise itself produces endorphins, another feel-good hormone that boosts your mood and reduces pain.

It challenges your body. “When exercising on ever-changing outdoor terrain, your body is more challenged than when it is working out on a flat indoor surface,” explains Norvell.

You may be more likely to stick with it. “I take many of my individual clients and classes outdoors,” says Norvell. “They often tell me it doesn’t feel like as much of a workout as running on the treadmill, even though they are still getting a great calorie burn.”

It provides mental relief. “Many people feel a lot of tension about working out, losing weight and lowering their blood pressure,” she explains. “Outdoor exercise is enjoyable and feels more like play than a chore.”

You can turn it into a social outing. “Exercise can become a lot more fun if you involve family and friends,” she says. Instead of meeting a friend for lunch or coffee, consider going for a walk. Or take your family out for a walk together instead of watching TV after dinner.

It’s free. All you need to get a fantastic workout is a safe, well-lit park, track, neighborhood or walking trail, and your bodyweight. No gym membership required.

It can be a team-building experience. “There are many recreational sports leagues for adults, such as kickball or softball,” says Norvell. “I encourage adults to do it, even if you’re not an athlete. Joining a team can help you stay consistent with exercise and it can bring back those feelings you had as a kid playing outside—and unlike high school, no athletic ability is required.”


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