By Erin Girzone, CPT & Nutrition/Wellness Consultant
Brought to you by the Natural Buzz monthly newsletter
As someone who makes most of her living coaching clients through indoor workouts, it may seem funny that I am writing this article, but you can’t deny the facts: exercising outdoors has many perks. Let’s take a look at how it can benefit you and see if you can be convinced to start heading outside more often.
First and foremost, choosing to exercise outdoors is a whole lot nicer on the wallet. I have yet to come across a local park or trail system in the Concord area that charges admission. On the other hand, gyms charge monthly memberships and often times additional fees for classes as well. What is hard to believe is that despite paying money for access to these gyms, many people do not attend frequently enough to get their money’s worth. Choosing to be active outdoors is not only FREE, but research has proven you are likely to exercise more frequently and for longer periods of time when doing so outside as compared to inside.
Why is this the case? Well, take a moment to think of how you feel when you are outside. Calm, happy, revitalized? Research from various studies has found that exercising outside increases your energy levels, self-esteem, and enthusiasm, and decreases tension, depression, and anger. In a nutshell, being outdoors is pleasurable for your body and mind. This is why you will exercise more frequently and for longer periods of time if you have an outdoor routine versus an indoor routine. Your body and mind want to feel good! Not to mention that you make more vitamin D when outside in the sunshine which plays an important role in your mood, bone density, and metabolism. Again, this is all FREE! Thank you Mother Nature!
Let’s review a couple options for outdoor activities and then briefly discuss some strategies to begin a successful, long-term routine. For starters, Concord and many of the surrounding towns have fantastic networks of hiking trails, which are very accessible. Hiking in the woods offers a variety of benefits including; uneven ground which improves your stability in your core, legs, ankles and feet, being safe from busy streets, variations in elevation that challenge your cardiovascular system, and being in a peaceful setting amongst the trees, birds, etc.
To take it a step further (no pun intended!), you can do any number of strength exercises that require only your body weight while outside. Maybe you do modified planks using fallen trees, or step ups on a rock along the trail or at the vistas. Maybe you meet friends at a local park and do squats and pushups using picnic table benches.
Hopefully I’ve gotten the wheels turning in your own head. Worthy ideas and intentions however are not as good as actually following through with a plan. That being said, here are a few tips to help you be successful in creating a new outdoor exercise habit.
- Pick an activity that you will enjoy doing and that is easy to accomplish. When starting a new habit, it is a good idea to start small so that it doesn’t require a ton of motivation. Once this routine is in place, it will be a piece of cake to start building on the level of difficulty-whether this means a more challenging trail, a longer period of time, or more squat reps.
- Provide yourself with some sort of trigger that will remind you and encourage you to carry out the routine. For example, have exercise clothes out and ready next to where you put your keys when you get home from work. Better yet, bring exercise clothes to work and change before you leave. This way you can stop on your way home at a local park or trail.
- Ask a spouse, co-worker, or friend to join you. Accountability goes a long way. (Believe me, that is why personal trainers like myself are in business!)
Not sure where to start? Let myself and the Co-op help you! I will be leading a hiking series this spring for the Co-op, one hike per month in April, May, and June. The goal of the series is to introduce folks to three of the local Concord trails and share information about the Concord trail system in general. It is a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of. I hope to see many of you out there.