Why does it feel so good to be outside? Being out in the sun, feeling the breeze and breathing in the fresh air, hearing birds, seeing trees, lakes, mountains, and maybe even the occasional wild animal, all have a way of invigorating our spirits.
Scientific studies suggest that one reason it may feel so good to be in nature is that it actually is good for us, with measurable positive effects on health—and even more so when combined with exercise. Below are just a few of the amazing things that exercising outside can do for our health.
Reduction in Disease Markers
Simply being outdoors in a greenspace reduces disease markers across the board, found one review of more than a hundred studies. Cortisol levels, blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels, as well as all-cause mortality, all decreased with increased exposure to greenspace. Greenspace is defined as undeveloped land with natural vegetation, but can also apply to city parks and even leafy, tree-lined streets. Several studies showed benefits in cancer and neurological disorders as well.
What we can take away from this is that nature has a positive relationship with human health, and being in nature should be consciously factored in as a normal and desirable part of a healthy life. Whether that means walking in a city park over lunch or a longer excursion hiking on the weekends, we should make being outdoors a regular part of our daily routine.
Increase in Vitamin D for Mood & Immunity
One of the ways being outdoors benefits health is by increasing vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is a hormone that is naturally made by the body when sunlight reaches the skin. It only takes about ten minutes of sunlight per day for the body to make enough vitamin D. This is important because vitamin D is necessary for health, but it’s not normally found in food unless the food is fortified with it, such as in vitamin D-fortified milk. As a result, most people are deficient in vitamin D and likely experience negative health effects because of it.
What does vitamin D do for us? For one thing, studies show that vitamin D is a natural mood booster. It is of special benefit to people who struggle with depressive and anxiety disorders. Further, beneficial for everyone, vitamin D supports the immune system, as well as respiratory and gut health, and can help reduce infection. Vitamin D even may help some autoimmune disorders.
In addition to supplementation, getting routine exposure to the sun by going outside a little while every day is a good way to increase vitamin D levels and promote good health naturally and for free.
Decrease Muscle Pain & Joint Stiffness
Although going for a run around the neighborhood might seem like a healthy thing to do, the continual repetitive pressure from pounding the hard pavement can actually cause pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints. This problem is easily remediated by exercising in a natural setting instead, such as on an earthy hiking trail.
Whether you are walking or jogging, doing it on soft earth is much more supportive of the body and the health goals you are trying to achieve. Plus, you are more likely to come across some beautiful scenery where you can take a breather and enjoy the views while perhaps experiencing an epiphany or two.
Creating an Outdoor Exercise Regimen
To get all these health benefits and more, aim for a routine that allows for thirty minutes of outdoor walking or jogging per day, most days of the week. Depending on where you live, this might include the grass at your city park, a local forest trail, or even walking barefoot on a sandy beach.
You can use an app like AllTrails to find new places to explore. Keep a water bottle and a pair of good exercise shoes handy in your office or car so that you’re always ready to hit the trail.
You can also bring your friends and family along for quality time spent bonding and making memories. You may want to bring your phone or camera, too, because you never know what you’ll see!
Finding Time to Exercise
One of the first excuses people give when they are faced with making a necessary but effort-required change in their life is that they don’t have time for it. If you are truly willing to change and live a better life, make an honest evaluation of how you spend your time and be ready to swap out anything that isn’t going to help you get there. If you spend an hour or more on social media or watching TV every day, then you definitely have time—it’s just a matter of choice.
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and that includes exercising while in recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling to stay active in recovery, call us at Spero Recovery. Our beautiful facility includes sixteen square miles of open space and hiking trails perfect for exercising and taking time for relaxation in nature. We also have built-in groups so you don’t have to hike alone, but can enjoy having fun with others on the trail. The stunning Colorado mountains make exercising outdoors awe-inspiring. You will never look at exercise the same way again! Contact us today at (303) 351-7888 to see how Spero Recovery can lead you through recovery to an active and healthy new life.