The outdoors is your greatest gym. It’s free, it’s convenient and it’s there wherever you go. Whilst it’s great to make the effort to get fit in whichever way suits you, gym retention statistics make for depressing reading.
About 80% of gym members will either not be going to the gym or will have significantly reduced their visits after three months. It’s the old 80/20 rule, you’ll always get about 20% of hardcore gym goers but the other 80% lose their mojo. Part of the reason is the effort it takes to get to the gym in the first place as well as the cost and, in my view, the uninspiring environment.
Exercising outdoors is more convenient, low cost and mentally stimulating than working out in a gym. There is far more to it than just physique benefits, such as:
- Being outdoors can make us feel more alive and energised.
- Connecting with nature. We are natural beings, not designed to sit inside as much as we do. Being outside is our natural state of being.
- Sunlight provides Vitamin D. It’s virtually impossible to get enough vitamin D from food. We need to expose our skin to sunlight for the body to make enough vitamin D.
- Natural daylight boosts mood and endorphins.It helps our biorhythms, helping us to be energised or sleepy at the right times.
- The outdoors improves mood and feelings of wellbeing. It helps us to get our thoughts into perspective and see the bigger picture.
- Being, and exercising, outside has very beneficial effects on conditions such as alzheimers and depression.
Apart from the non-physique-related benefits it’s more effective to workout outdoors over varied terrain and in different weathers. For instance, you can’t simulate downhill running on a treadmill, or running into wind. The varied terrain will mean that you use more of a range of muscles too.
There are some perceived barriers to exercising outdoors. Many people will never have done it and they feel lost, both literally lost and metaphorically! They don’t know what to do with, and in, the outdoors and they don’t know where to go or where they CAN go. Some people are frightened of being vulnerable, for instance women exercising outdoors alone may feel threatened. To some people the outdoors might even be an alien environment if they’ve grown up in a city and led a very indoors existence. There might also be worries about pollution in cities or a perception of there not being enough open space. On top of this, it’s not always deemed as fashionable, or is not part of the local culture. Having said that, there are lots of barriers to joining a gym too, I think perhaps moreso.
There are ways you can make being outside a part of your natural life, it doesn’t always have to involve exercise; just getting used to the outdoors is a great start.
Here are some ideas
Get gardening. It’s been shown that gardening has a very positive effect on feelings of wellbeing – and you can grow your own veg! A window box or a balcony are fine, or an allotment.
Make a plan to spend your leisure time outdoors with trips to beaches, forests and trails. In the UK we are never more than 70 miles from the coast. Plan to visit the coast once a month, not a seaside resort but some of the many miles of natural and beautiful coastline.
Sit or walk outside in your breaks or your free minutes during the day.
Walk to school, work or the shops.
Start regularly walking, cycling or running outdoors.
Join a walking, cycling or running group.
Just lie outside and chill in a park, in a meadow or in your garden, Close your eyes and listen to the outdoors!
If you love dogs, and have time for one, get one! They are amazing for getting you outside. Only get one if you’re prepared to love and walk it though.
Resolve to get outside for at least 30 mins every day this week (you’ve still got the other 23.5 hours inside) Remember that it doesn’t matter if it’s sunny, windy, rainy, snowy or icy, in fact it’s better if it’s varied, that’s part of the charm 🙂
Post any pics on our Facebook page, share the outdoors love!