Regular exercise is an important component to our general health and mental wellness. Even if you have a favorite type of training, at any point in time one can lose motivation and experience sadness, depression, or lack of motivation. Although lack of motivation from time to time is completely normal, one of the causes can be from doing the same training, in the same place, day in and day out.
Though training inside a gym has many benefits—especially the ability to have cool air circulating when it’s hot outside, warmth when it’s cold, the abundant variety of equipment, and the sight of people just like ourselves working toward their goals—choosing to train outdoors may be more beneficial to your mental health. There are many people who would choose to train outdoors over being inside a gym any day, especially those who have experienced depression.
It’s said that if you’re feeling depressed, one of the best ways to fight it is with outdoor exercising; even taking a brisk walk outside causes our feel-good hormones to rise. The evidence in favor of getting outside for regular exercise continues to grow—a 2012 Glasgow University study reports a 50% improvement in mental health when people are active outdoors versus at the gym. Specific improvements involved mild depression, sleep problems, stress, and feeling unable to cope. The researchers found that walking, running, biking, and other outdoor activities through green space lowered stress, The Telegraph reported.
As I stated before, training indoors and outside both have great health benefits for our bodies and minds, but let’s take a closer look at why outdoor training has amazing “mental and emotional healing” benefits.
- Increased Vitamin D- Sunlight helps supply the body with Vitamin D, a “superstar” nutrient which promotes the absorption of calcium and provides strength to bones. Vitamin D, D3 to be exact, is called the sunshine vitamin because our bodies produce it when exposed to sunlight. There are also vitamin D receptors in areas of the brain that help regulate behavior and emotion, allowing vitamin D to help fight depression and lack of motivation.Exposure to sunlight is a common treatment for depression and other mood disorders. Studies show that depressed exercisers who go for a walk outdoors feel happier and have better self-esteem than those who walk on a treadmill indoors. Endorphins, which can raise your mood and keep it stable, are released when you spend time in the sun.
- Feel Good hormones- Endorphins, are the feel-good hormones of the body, which give a feeling of happiness. These naturally occurring hormones can make you feel better physically by helping to quell pain, sadness, lethargy, and low self-esteem. They also slow your aging process, give you stress relief, and send your immune system into overdrive. When you work out, a flood of endorphins are released. Training both indoors and outdoors will release these hormones, but the “feel-goods” are more intense outdoors due to both the exercise and the positive effects nature has on our hormone release.
- Fresh Air- Fresh air is refreshing and invigorating; you will improve your sense of wellbeing, increase alertness, decrease anxiety, and lower resting heart rate. Taking deep breaths can calm the mind, body, and spirit. When training outdoors, you are able to take in fresh oxygen to fuel our cells and maybe even help fight disease.
- Change in scenery- Working inside during the day then traveling in a car to work out inside can have a negative effect on our state of mind. Performing the same tasks day in and day out, especially in winter due to loss of light, has been shown to bring on feelings of depression and even insomnia. Changing scenery in combination with more light can help fight both insomnia and depression. Running, walking, biking outdoors causes us to see nature as it, beautiful and peaceful. This will give us feelings of peace and calmness.
Outdoor training has many healing benefits that we all need to experience. If you feel as though you are in a rut or not feeling your normal self, get outside and do a workout, even for 15 minutes. Your mind will feel rejuvenated; your body will feel better.