Want to Boost your Workout? Get Outside!
Exercise is good for you; that’s no Earth-shattering news. But as research now shows, exercising outdoors in a green setting provides a greater emotional boost than doing the same workout inside. We asked Dr. Alan Fogel, Ph.D., a Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah and author of the Psychology Today blog Body Sense to tell us his thoughts on the findings.
Born to Be Outdoors
“You’re more likely to have moments of awe, wonder or peace in natural environments rather than in artificial indoor environments,” says Dr. Fogel. ”There’s an element of mood lifting when you move through a landscape; something you can’t get from exercising indoors.”
Fogel has experienced the benefits of exercising in the great outdoors firsthand. A lifelong athlete, he was an avid squash player when he lived in Chicago. But upon moving to Utah, he switched to a workout routine of mostly outdoor activities. He was sweating a similar amount, but the outdoor workouts were more satisfying. ”There’s something I get from seeing the sky and actually having my feet or bicycle wheels touch the ground,” says Fogel. “It’s tied to millions of years of programming. We evolved to have direct contact with nature and when we lose that, some part of ourselves is cut off.”
A Natural Boost
Opportunities to enjoy the mood-lifting benefits of nature that Fogel describes can be few and far between for city dwellers, especially those lacking access to a nearby park. And that’s no small loss—studies show that a simple five-minute stroll through a park lowers blood pressure and raises self-esteem. The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that regular exposure to nature can reduce stress levels by as much as 28 percent in children
“Being outside and exercising in nature should be a part of any healthcare regimen,” says Dr. Fogel. “Exercising is all important, but exercising outdoors provides a well-being boost.”