The benefits of exercising outdoors

Is it time to put a spring in your step and take your workout outdoors?

At Audley Clubs we’ll be taking some fitness classes outside as and when the weather allows for it. Should you do so too?

Whilst we are not advocating for taking all exercise outside, there are some undeniable benefits to working out outdoors. The fresh air we get outdoors not only helps replenish oxygen levels during and after a workout, but it can also have a direct impact on our mental wellbeing. The Audley team have done a little digging and found some of the best benefits to taking your workout outside this spring…

Yoga class in a park with trees

1. Access to fresh air

This may be an obvious one, but when you exercise outside you breathe in much cleaner, fresher air than you would by breathing in the recirculated air indoors. By taking your workout outside, there are less pollutants and the air is fresh. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, even in very commercial, metropolitan areas, indoor air may be more polluted than outdoor air.

"Outdoors, you know that deep breath of fresh air really is just that."

2. It's more motivating

Struggling to get through that final lap or complete those extra reps? Even with your favourite songs pounding in your ears, it can be tough to push yourself that extra metaphorical mile during a workout indoors. Outside though, there are lots of things to catch your attention and either momentarily distract you from the pain in your muscles or spur you on.

The outside workout is always more unpredictable than indoors, and that can make for a far more motivating setting. Whether the warm sun is beating down on you, the wind is slapping you across the face or you’re battling through a torrential downpour, one thing is for sure - exercising outdoors is NOT boring! And that unpredictable setting can push you to endure a harder workout.

Plus, if you’re running outside, there’s no option to give up before you reach your target as you’ll still have to finish the journey home no matter what.

Outdoor scenery can be particularly effective for someone who isn’t a fan of running or cycling but does like to walk.

Outdoors you can gradually increase your pace and the length of your route to challenge your body to work harder.


3. It's a harder workout

Being active outdoors puts your body in the hands of the elements – the climate and the terrain. Outdoors, the environment and the terrain are ever changing and that can increase the difficulty of your workout. Pre-setting your incline on a treadmill is still a very effective challenge, but the unpredictability of a run outdoors makes it more challenging on your body.

There’s also no option to reduce the incline or turn up the fan when you’re outside. The route is the route, and Audley Club Managers recommend switching your route regularly to keep you on your toes.

The harder your body works, the more calories you burn and the fitter you become.


4. It boosts mental health

When you exercise, whether that be cardio, strength or stretching, your body releases endorphins. These feel-good chemicals induce feelings of happiness which elevates your mood.

Endorphins released by exercise can help to naturally reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Indoors or outdoors, all exercise releases endorphins. If you opt for an outdoor workout though, you have the added benefit of direct sunlight (not often enough in the UK). On sunny days the human brain is reported to have higher levels of serotonin which stabilizes a positive mood and can again reduce the symptoms of anxiety and sadness.

Then throw in some Vitamin D for good measure. The Vitamin D we take in from natural sunlight also enhances our mood.


5. It relieves stress

Exercise naturally releases norepinephrine, which helps reserve the impact of stress on the brain. Much like exercise improves your mental health, it also relieves stress. Norepinephrine forces your central nervous system and sympathetic nervous system to work together, which helps you manage and respond to stress more efficiently.

Research has found that even spending short periods outdoors, especially in a relaxing environment, can reduce the body’s stress-causing cortisol levels.


6. It’s accessible

Weather aside, one key benefit of exercising outdoors is that there’s no commuting or preparation required. Most of us can step outside our front door and go for a walk, a run, a bike ride, or even to the garden or local park for a spot of yoga. In comparison, there’s a commute to the gym, the search for a parking space etc, or space and equipment required if you work out from home.

There are plenty of parks, bike trails and woodland not far for most people making it a very convenient option.

So the long and short of it is... There's no excuse not to get active outdoors! Read some advice from Audley personal trainers to motivate you to get started.