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Exercise in the Open Air: 5 Benefits of Exercising Outside

Any kind of exercise can bring powerful benefits for your physical and mental health. But if you choose to take your sessions outdoors instead of at a gym, you can enjoy an even greater return on your workout investment. Here are five benefits of exercising outside.


1. You'll Burn More Calories

The variation in landscape and conditions means exercising outdoors can burn through more calories than the equivalent indoor session. For example, running a parkland route will often involve gradients, changes in direction, and even wind resistance, all of which need more energy than covering the same distance on a treadmill.

Similarly, exercising in the open air means you'll need to be more alert to your surroundings compared to the soothing familiarity of a gym. You'll need to concentrate on handling uneven surfaces, navigating your route, and even avoiding bumping into other people. This extra mental activity burns calories in addition to the physical work and, while the effect may be small, it all adds up as part of a rounded fitness routine.


2. Max Up Your Motivation

The same four walls of your local gym can soon become over-familiar and dampen your enthusiasm for working out. Switching to outdoor exercise makes it easier to vary your surroundings whether it's training in different neighborhoods or parks or exploring natural landscapes beyond the city boundaries. The increased variety is more stimulating and increases your motivation, making it more likely that you'll fit a session in rather than put it off.


3. Get a Vitamin D Boost

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that's very difficult to gain from food but is produced by your body when the sun shines on your skin. Outdoor exercise can boost your vitamin D levels more naturally than any supplement, leading to a stronger immune system, healthier bones, and lower risks of depression and anxiety.


4. Enjoy Better Sleep

Exposure to the sun can also improve sleep patterns by adapting your body's hormone rhythms to the natural hours of daylight. Better sleep means you feel more refreshed and more motivated to work out, while also speeding up physical recovery as your muscles heal quicker while you rest. And, of course, being less fatigued will bring benefits across many other areas of your life, from your work to your leisure time and relationships.


5. Avoid Indoor Pollutants

A final benefit of outdoor exercise is that you'll breathe in lower levels of indoor nasties such as dust, mold, and infections spread by other gym users. Of course, taking your exercise along a busy city street will introduce a whole new set of pollutants, but if you have access to a place with clean, fresh air, your lungs will thank you for exercising there instead of in a crowded room.


A gym workout is certainly better than no workout at all. But if you can mix up your exercise by taking it outside from time to time, these five benefits add an important extra dimension to help you get more from your fitness efforts.