By Gill Stewart at
It’s mid-March – we are eagerly anticipating the return of spring, brighter mornings and later evenings. The temptation to hide under the duvet is strong, or if you are more committed, you may head down to your local gym to keep your exercise regime going while you wait for warmer days.
However, even in these last stages of winter it may be chilly, and you may have to push yourself a little harder to get your foot out the door, but once you do, the benefits of exercising outdoors are far better than heading down your local sweaty gym!!
In recent years there has been more and more research into the effect of green space on our mental health. In a report by Environmental Science and Technology, it was shown that after a 30-minute walk in the park 71% of people feel less stressed as opposed to those who walk inside and actually feel more stressed.
Why could this be? Well – what could be more uplifting than walking through the fresh air with the sound of birdsong and noticing the changing scenery around us, soon it will be the blossom on the trees and bluebells, snowdrops and daffodils coming through. As human beings, nature seems to ground us and you just don’t get that in the gym glued to whatever they have on telly (possibly Jeremy Kyle!) while you try to distract yourself from the 30 minutes you’ve committed yourself to on the treadmill.
NO added distraction needed outside – your eyes are up and alert, and you are taking in all your surroundings – possibly for the first time if it’s a new route. Your mind is clear, and time passes quickly without realising. You will come home feeling less stressed and able to think clearly. If you like to walk in the morning, it sets you up for the day, and in the evening it can be a great de-stressor after a hard day at work.
While exercise machines can be good, they are also repetitive, and doing the same movements over and over again can potentially cause an injury (not to mention being slightly boring!). However, walking outside provides you with an ever-changing environment which will promote the use of your body in different ways as you adapt to different terrains. Walking on the flat – no problem, then up several hills and down again – all using different muscle groups ensuring you are getting an all over workout without even thinking about it. Very windy? How much harder does your body work pushing yourself through the wind (I recently did just this on a blustery Sunday morning – very bracing I can tell you!) Or, if you are lucky enough to have the wind behind you how much faster do you walk? All added benefits that you just won’t get inside.
These are just two of the key reasons for choosing the great outdoors rather hopping in your car to go to the gym, add cost (its free), socialising, and the fact you can do it on a whim rather than schedule a time, and exercise-wise you are on to a winner. So, shrug off that duvet – turn off the telly in the evening and start experiencing these benefits for yourself.