A well-balanced diet and regular exercise are good for our health — this information is nothing new. We all know that to maintain a healthy lifestyle we must be mindful of what we put into our bodies and get some sort of physical activity daily. However, some may not know that outdoor exercise can be even more beneficial than any other type of physical activity or recreation.
Physical exercise releases endorphins, but outdoor physical activity can boost our mood even further. You don’t even have to put much effort into the activity to reap the benefits. Even a simple walk around the neighborhood daily or sitting outside observing nature and breathing in the fresh air can go a long way towards improving your mood and helping you live a healthy life.
Health Benefits of Outdoor Recreation
One of the best parts of moving your body outside is soaking up Vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones, blood cells, and our overall immune system. Spending more time outside in nature has also been shown to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to a 2010 Harvard study. With mental health and physical health being so inexplicably linked, it’s impossible not to see the benefits of time spent in nature.
Spending time outdoors in the early morning sunlight can also help us get better sleep. Our bodies have an internal clock that can get disrupted when we spend too much time indoors. But the sunlight that our eyes absorb in the early morning can reset our internal clock and help us fall asleep better at night.
Outdoor physical activity can also help individuals struggling with certain health conditions. People who suffer from vein disease in their legs, for example, can experience pain and restless leg syndrome when they spend too much time sitting around. Physical outdoor exercise and compression socks can significantly improve symptoms by getting the blood circulating in their legs.
Our eyes can also benefit from getting outdoors. Doctors say that regular outdoor exercise, such as walking and running, swimming, and bike riding regularly, can help us improve our eyesight. It can even help us reduce our chances of developing other conditions that lead to eye disease.
Outdoor Activities to Improve Your Health
When it comes to the outdoors, there is no limit to what you can do to get your body moving. You can simply go for a 20-minute walk every day, or you can go for more intense, rigorous sports. It all depends on what you are physically capable of and what activities interest you.
Some of the best outdoor activities include:
- Hiking: Fully immersing yourself in nature on a hike can do wonders for your physical and mental health. Whether you choose an easy trail or a hard one, you will still get your heart pumping and stimulate your mind by observing everything around you.
- Cycling: Cycling is one of the best outdoor activities because it is low impact but high intensity. You can burn a lot of calories and give your cardiovascular system a great workout while riding your bike without putting pressure on your joints, which makes it a good activity for people of all ages.
- Yoga: Outdoor yoga is beneficial for both your body and your mind. It gets your body moving, but it also focuses on breathwork and meditation, which can calm your mind and boost your mood.
- Running and Jogging: Not everyone is keen on running, but even a brisk jog can give you an excellent cardio workout in a short amount of time. Of course, the longer you go, the more calories you will burn, but it isn’t necessary to run or jog long distances to reap the rewards.
How to Stay Safe When Exercising Outdoors
When exercising outside, it’s important to know your limits to stay safe and avoid doing more harm than good. While outdoor adventures and activities are excellent for our health, the conditions can be harsher than those inside in a controlled environment. If you are going to step outside for some fresh air and physical activity, the key to staying safe is listening to your body and giving what it needs.
Outdoor safety tips:
- Know your limits: When exercising outside, you can easily push your limits, especially when the weather is hot or cold. Listen to your body and know when to stop.
- Stay hydrated and fueled: Of course, water is essential during any workout, but it can mean life or death when exercising outdoors. If you go on a long run or a hike in extreme heat without enough water, you can easily become dehydrated and/or experience a heat stroke. Even on cooler days, it’s always a good idea to bring water if you plan to be out more than 30-45 minutes.
- Wear sunscreen: Outdoor activities are great, but they do expose your skin more often to the sun. Even on cloudy days, you should wear sunscreen to avoid skin damage.
- Use protective gear: It’s important to wear the appropriate gear and clothing when exercising outdoors. For example, you don’t want to wear heavy or bulky clothing in the summer or clothes that are too lightweight in the winter. The right gear can even improve your workout and help keep you safe.
When it comes to your health, spending time outside can be highly beneficial. Even just our minds can improve by spending 10-15 minutes outside each day. And it doesn’t matter your age or condition—there is something for everyone. Of course, the more you can move your body and get your heart pumping, the better. However, even just sitting outside for a few minutes can improve your mood and your health.