Staying active can be remarkable for your health, both physically and mentally. While making time to go to the gym is beneficial in many ways, you get even more out of your workout if you exercise outdoors. Breathing in the fresh air and getting your daily dose of vitamin D is something that can’t be done while jogging in place and staring at a television screen.
Although moving your workout outdoors is a simple task, many people find it difficult to break out of their routine and get out into the open world. While it may be intimidating at first, you’ll soon find that a quick run at the gym simply doesn’t compare to a jog through a park or next to a lake.
One of the most important factors to consider when moving your workout outdoors is the weather. Whether you’re basking in the heat of the summer or trying not to freeze in the middle of winter, a few simple preparations can make your outdoor workout an enjoyable experience.
Working Out Can Increase Happiness
First thing’s first: if you aren’t exercising regularly, start now! While many people are too busy to make daily exercise a reality, there are plenty of ways to sneak in a bit of extra movement. If your work isn’t far away, try biking instead of driving to work a few days a week. If you do drive, try parking further away and walking the extra distance. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or take your lunch on a walk outdoors.
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Exercise has been proven time and time again to improve mood and reduce anxiety and stress. Regular exercise can increase levels of serotonin and tryptophan in the brain, both of which can produce calming effects. Additionally, stable levels of serotonin in the brain can promote more pleasant emotions long-term.
A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology found that there are two different ways that exercise can increase serotonin in the brain. Regular exercise (approximately 30 minutes per day) can increase the levels of tryptophan in the brain—an amino acid that synthesizes serotonin.
Motor activity also increases the rate and frequency at which serotonin is released and synthesized in the brain. The more serotonin your body produces, the happier you feel overall. 1
In a study published in 2011, researchers had 26 healthy men and women who exercised regularly either continue exercising or take a break for two weeks. After two weeks, those who had not exercised experienced a significant increase in feelings of negativity. 2
You don’t need to over-exert yourself in order to reap the benefits of exercising. If you take the time to exercise approximately 30 minutes a day (even if you break this up into 10-minute intervals), this can still have the same positive effects.
Summer Workout Tips
A beautiful, sunny day is incredibly inviting. Summer is the time of the year when most people spend extended time outdoors, but exercising in the summer heat can be brutal. However, with a few precautions, you can safely exercise outdoors all summer long.
Exercise in the Morning or Evening
The hottest part of the day is typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. To avoid heat exhaustion, try going out early in the morning or after the sun starts to set. If you are planning on exercising during the heat of the day, try to remain under the cover of shade or find a body of water to jump into if you get too hot. You can also cool off your skin by carrying a small spray bottle of water or a personal fan.
Wear Light Clothing
Wearing lightweight, light-colored clothing can help keep you cooler. Dark colors can absorb heat, making you even hotter. Extremely tight clothing can also trap heat inside. By wearing lightweight, light-colored clothing, you can reduce heat absorption and increase air circulation.
Protect Your Skin
Although you should be protecting your skin year-round, you should be especially vigilant during the summer months. Before going outdoors, be sure to apply sunblock. Even if it claims to be water and sweat-proof, you should always re-apply every two hours. There are plenty of natural versions of sunblock as well. Wearing long, loose layers and wide-brimmed hats can also protect your skin.
It is extremely important to remember to stay hydrated throughout your workout at any time of the year. In the summer, high temperatures and high levels of humidity can increase your risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Try to drink approximately eight ounces of water every 20 minutes, and try to incorporate high-water snacks such as fruits and vegetables.
Winter Workout Tips
Cold weather shouldn’t stop you from getting your blood pumping. As long as you’re properly prepared for the cold, you can fully enjoy exercising in the winter.
Skip the Cotton
This is perhaps one of the most important things to remember when getting dressed for your winter workout. Rain, snow, or even sweat can instantly be soaked up by cotton and keep you wet and miserable.
Being cold and wet can also increase your risk for hypothermia or frostbite in extreme temperatures. Instead of cotton, try wearing fabrics that are specifically designed for exercising. Many of these are synthetic fabrics, but merino wool is also a good alternative. Synthetic fabrics that are designed for exercise tend to be moisture-wicking, which can keep you dry and warm throughout your workout.
Layering Is Key
Even if you have the best sweat-wicking clothing, it won’t help you if you don’t know how to layer properly. Basic layering includes a thin base layer made out of merino wool or a moisture-wicking synthetic. Next is a middle layer, such as fleece to help trap in warmth. Finally, an outer layer (also referred to as a shell) is used to protect from the elements such as snow, rain, or wind. You can find extremely lightweight versions of all of these layers so you don’t feel weighed down.
Keep Your Fingers and Toes Warm
Running shoes tend to be designed to let heat escape and are often made out of mesh fabrics. While this is great in the summer, it leads to very cold feet in the winter. Many outdoor stores have a selection of cold-weather running shoes that keep your feet dry and warm.
Proper socks, gloves, and hats or headbands are also important. Make sure all of these accessories are also made out of wool or moisture-wicking synthetic materials, as even wet fingers or toes can lead to frostbite or extreme discomfort.
Wear Bright Colors
Aside from keeping yourself warm and comfortable, you should also be focused on your safety. Winter tends to be grey and dark in most places, and wearing dark clothing can make it difficult for drivers to see you. Wearing bright colors can ensure that you are seen when on the road or the trail, but if you’re not into neon, try wearing clothing with reflective strips. If you’re riding a bike, make sure you have both reflective gear and a blinking light.
Taking your exercise routine outdoors doesn’t have to be a stressful ordeal. By taking the proper precautions and wearing the proper clothing, you can have an enjoyable outdoor workout year-round. Always be sure to listen to your body, though—if you’re feeling overly-exerted, too hot, or too cold, slow down and go indoors. And if you need an extra boost, Active can help promote energy and motivation.
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