Amanda Byram: Why Exercising Outside Can Work For You

August is not the month to be slogging it out at the gym – our columnist tells us why an al fresco workout boosted more than just her fitness levels…

It’s no secret that daily exercise provides us with countless benefits, both physically and mentally. However, lately I’ve been reading a lot of research that the average Westerner is getting a lot less light during the day and being exposed to more light at night. This messes with our circadian rhythms and, in turn, has consequences for our physical and mental health. That got me thinking, and I decided to make the effort to exercise outdoors more to see if I noticed the benefits.

Let’s go outside

Training outdoors boosted my mood significantly. Before I started, I was going from one indoor space (my home) to the next (the gym), and back home again. Even though I ‘went outdoors’ to get there, realistically I was simply moving between two indoor spaces. Outdoor exercise has been proven to help boost mental health, above and beyond that of being in a gym, and I can attest to the fact that my mood lifted and I felt a lot less stressed. Taking in more deep breaths felt much more conducive while training outdoors and these deep breaths also helped me to feel a lot more calm and alleviate my busy mind. It’s not necessary to run a marathon to feel these benefits, simply walking briskly through the park, incorporating some step-ups on a park bench or jogging up some outdoor stairs will do the trick.

Al fresco activities

I also tried rock climbing and tennis – two things I had not attempted in years – and the feeling of euphoria when I had accomplished them was better than any set of squats reps at the gym! It has been proven that outdoor workouts like these, and activities like fishing and even gardening, can improve feelings of self-esteem.

Another added benefit of training outdoors, was the ease at which I could reach my training place of choice. Rather than having to worry about the commute to the gym, the locker when I got there, whether or not the equipment I wanted would be available, I just had to walk outside my front door to access my outdoor gym for free! So, I found that I was training more frequently.

Connect with nature

The activities I took the most advantage of were: long walks around the Thames river where I live, stopping along the way to step up and down on benches; cycling to the local park taking some resistance bands with me and tying them to a tree; finding a steep incline to power walk and incorporate a few sprints up and down, and I found a large set of outdoor stairs that I walked up several times for a great glutes workout!

Being outside is also the best place to re-connect with nature. In our modern lives, we can often find ourselves with our heads stuck in our phones. The great outdoors made me look around, up and down. Exercising al fresco helped me to feel grounded and I had a new appreciation for the beauty that was around me all along. So, if you are looking to enhance your mood, save money and the hassle of getting to the gym, and if you can implement a simple change in environment this summer, it’s time to get out and about!

Health & Wellbeing