Why Exercising Outside is Better For You

02/24/2013

Exercising outside photRunning on a treadmill seems like a boring monotonous waste of time, especially within the confines of my tiny condo gym. I can’t imagine why anyone would give up the delights of running outside to go to the gym.

That is until the gray winter skies of February set in around me. The air turns from crisp to cold and the intermittent drizzle beckons me back inside. Gyms can be beneficial in the winter, when the other option is sitting on the couch, eating potato chips, and praying for a sunny day. Not that I do that.

But a new article in The New York Times discusses why you should resist the urge to join a gym and exercise outside. According to the article, exercising outside is different from exercising in a gym for a number of reasons. 

Running outside is more strenuous and studies have shown that treadmill runners use less energy. They also exercise less frequently and for shorter periods of time than outdoor runners. Treadmill runners have the option of turning off the machine once they get bored or tired.

Let’s face it, when the only thing you can think about is when your time is up, you’re less likely to get a good workout. And when you’re running outside, even if you’re tired, you have to get home. You can’t just stop on a whim. 

Treadmills also miss the muscular movements of running downhill, focusing on uphill and flat running movements only.

But by far the most important benefit is that those that workout outside are happier. 

According to The New York Times:

In a number of recent studies, volunteers have been asked to go for two walks for the same time or distance — one inside, usually on a treadmill or around a track, the other outdoors. In virtually all of the studies, the volunteers reported enjoying the outside activity more and, on subsequent psychological tests, scored significantly higher on measures of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem and lower on tension, depression and fatigue after they walked outside.

Right now, even as I look outside at the bleak drizzle and swaying winds, I just might get off the couch and head out there.

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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