5 Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London, UK

With the UK recently experiencing it’s coldest winter for 25 years and rare snowfall in London, it’s so easy to cop out of your weekly exercise routine and snuggle up on the sofa with a packet of jam doughnuts and some hot cocoa, but below are five reasons why you should try to maintain your exercise routine in the natural environment (just remember to wrap up warm and obey Covid 19 guidelines.)

If you didn’t believe in the interdependency of our health and the natural environment before, you will soon

1. Trees release a chemical which induces feelings of well-being

If you are exercising in a park or woodlands, you’ll feel the benefit of being in the proximity of trees. Research shows that evergreen trees release anxiety-reducing chemicals called phytoncides which boost well-being, and lower blood pressure. This natural aroma is emitted to protect plants and trees from predators but can also lift you out of your gloom and rut. If pandemic cabin fever has got you down, remember you are allowed out for exercise for limited periods and that time is best spent surrounded by trees and greenery.

2. The natural environment boosts our immune system

Our ancestors’ lives were closely tied to their natural environment and the benefits of this co-existence is evident today. Research into the relationship between our health, plants, parks and woodlands shows our immune systems are boosted in the natural environment where there are lots of trees – this is known as forest bathing. Our antiviral cells increase in power and this super-charged immune system will help protect against infection during the pandemic (but obviously you still have to get vaccinated and follow Covid 19 guidelines)

A British winter – West Ham Park, East London, UK

3. Fresh Air! Oxygen!

Yes, it’s everywhere even indoors but you’ll find a lot more oxygen outdoors that’s for sure! And there’ll be little of those indoor toxins given off by fibres, fabrics and household electronic equipment. Ever notice how much better you feel after opening your windows and letting in fresh air? Well, times that by 10 for the benefits of jogging or exercising outdoors rather than the same old safe treadmill surrounded by home comforts that feed into your desire to have everything easy. And the new oxygenated you will also have a better night’s sleep.

4. Daylight and Vitamin D

Medical experts stress the importance of vitamin D in protecting our respiratory organs during the pandemic. Also, vitamin D fights viral and bacterial infections and boosts immunity. Research by the Social Science Research Network shows that vitamin D supplements can boost your body’s Covid 19 fight by 80%. Daylight provides us with vitamin D therefore your Covid 19 protection programme should include a walk, run or workout outdoors.

At the moment, we spend 90 per cent of our time at home because of lockdown and even outside of lockdown, fears about the virus keep us housebound but it’s important that you take your one hour a day exercise. Sunlight converts cholesterol in the skin into this vital vitamin and there’s not much of it in winter and even less indoors so grab what little there is.

5. Increased calorie burn

The wind resistance and unpredictable terrain of parks and woodlands will make you exert more energy than you are used to. You’ll get dragged uncompromisingly out of your gym treadmill comfort zone and your lungs, muscles and nervous system will be shocked into optimal performance. As a result you’ll burn more calories, tone up and get muscle gains in the right places as your body adapts to cope. Our bodies love lazy predictability and hate discomfort. Time to shake it up!

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Winter 2021

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