With National wellness Month starting on August 1, now is the time to get out there and enjoy the great outdoors in every which way you can. Yes, it’s a little hot and humid. And yes, the lure of working out in the UAE’s newly-reopened, gloriously air-conditioned gyms is seriously appealing. But multiple studies have proved that an outdoor workout will offer the kind of psychological boost that an indoor environment simply can’t compete with. So set your alarm for an early wake-up call (you’ll need to be doing your cool down no later than 7am) or plan a sunset exercise session to beat the heat and amp up your endorphins while you embrace the benefits of having Mother Nature as your workout buddy.
COMO Shambhala wellness expert Lisa Manser tells The Gaggler why exercising outside is not only a great way to get in shape, but the perfect way to engage with the environment throughout Wellness Month and beyond.
Greater Mental Positivity
It’s a well-known fact that spending time outdoors is good for you. This is especially true in green environments, where natural landscapes have a soothing effect on our mind and bodies. Studies have found that simply walking in a forest for 15 minutes had the power to reduce blood pressure, lower heart rate and decrease the stress hormone, cortisol.
Outdoor exercise has also been shown to boost confidence. In 2010, a study of 1,252 participants at the University of Essex found that activities in green environments – or in the presence of water – generated greater improvements for both self-esteem and mood. This was the case even when undertaken for only five minutes and regardless of the type of exercise was done.
Sunshine State of Mind
Sunlight is the most intuitive source of vitamin D, contributing to the maintenance of strong, healthy bones, muscles and immune functions – and while it’s something we’re never in short supply of here in the Middle East, the region suffers greatly from Vitamin D deficiency because we spend so much time covered up and indoors.
The benefits of sunlight are so potent that the lack of it creates a very real syndrome that has negative effects on mood and wellbeing. Sunlight naturally increases serotonin, which is responsible for regulating emotional state, social behavior, appetite, sleep, and more. By heading outside to exercise, you can maximize your intake of sunshine, which will in turn boost your mood. Just remember to slap on plenty of sunscreen to protect yourself from the rays.
Free And Functional
Exercising outdoors provides the perfect opportunity to use your body as equipment, at no cost. These ‘functional movements’ are usually compound exercises that involve multiple, large muscle groups, and mimic the motions we frequently perform in daily life, so can directly improve our ability to perform ‘day-to-day tasks’ like carrying bags or climbing stairs. Instead of training specific body parts on machines in a gym, outdoor exercise enhances movement patterns – a holistic way to connect with your own physiology that can be more beneficial to your daily existence.
The Great Escape
Going outdoors offers physical separation from your internal routine. It’s a clean break from life in the office or home, which is important to ease monotony – especially at a time when we’ve had to stay inside more than ever before.
It also often feels less strenuous than indoor exercise, simply because nature is more engaging, which diverts some attention away from the effort you’re exerting. This is especially good because outdoor exercise can often be more challenging, with the ever-changing terrain requiring more from your body than a flat indoor surface. A tougher workout that feels easier? What’s not to love?