Is "Green Exercise" for you? The answer is YES.
For thousands of years our ancestors were living in nature, hunting and gathering. They braved the elements, immersed themselves in their surroundings, and used their bodies to survive. Currently, in this short blip of our history as humans, we are seeing a rise in urbanization and technological advances. At the same time, we are seeing decrease in physical activity and an increase in mental illness. It makes me think... "Are we being driven farther and farther away from our roots? From our connection to nature? And how does that effect us physically and mentally?"
Over the last 14 years, researchers at the University of Essex have made it their goal learn more about what they call "Green Exercise" and how it effects behavior, physiology, and over all health and well being. Their studies on physical activity in natural habitats have shown time and time again that the benefits of exercising in nature outweigh those of exercising indoors. Most of the info I have been gathering has come from their studies. You can check out their website too.
So, whether you are looking to boost your current fitness routine, start from scratch, or simply feel happy... GO OUTSIDE! Take a walk or a bike ride. Play ultimate Frisbee or an impromptu game of kickball. Find an outdoor class or just make use of your backyard. As the summer heat sets in you may need extra convincing, huh? No problem. I'm happy to help. Here are a few reasons you should be practicing Green Exercise...
You will work harder, but it won't feel like it.
Running, walking, and cycling outdoors is going to give you more bang for your buck. You will have the added advantage of wind resistance and real hills. Running/walking on a treadmill will only provide you with a 0 incline or uphill workout, therefore your body will never have to engage the muscles needed for a downhill motion. Studies have shown people burn 5% more calories on average running outside. Many of my clients are short on time and want to make each minute count, so I say opt for outdoor cardio. Plus, one study on Green Exercise proved that the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is lower for outdoor workouts even though participants are working harder. Meaning, on a scale of 1 to 10, someone running outside might perceive they are working at a 5 when in fact their heart rate is working at a 7. Inside on a treadmill the same run may feel like a 10. Ditch the machines and simply find a path to follow!
You will mentally recharge.
Unlike a computer screen, television, or even another person, nature does not require your direct attention. By exercising outside, you give your fatigued brain a rest and restore your ability to concentrate. Nature seems to have a similar effect on the brain as meditation. People exercising in nature show lower levels of Cortisol (stress hormones) in their blood, and they report feelings of higher self esteem, enthusiasm for physical activity, improved mood, and less fatigue. I often have clients tell me that are suffering from chronic stress. In our modern world we are constantly bombarded with information, stimulus, and demands. So I say, taking time to unplug is key. Even if physical fitness is not your primary goal, go green for your own peace of mind.
You will increase your ability to connect with others.
One controlled study on Green Exercise proved that participants engaged in 3 minutes more of social interaction in an outdoor setting vs an indoor setting. Participants seemed to engage in conversation with others when outdoors, making the experience more enjoyable. Those participants also reported greater desire for future exercise. Maybe it's the lack of distractions outside
or the improved mood? Maybe we are less likely to hide in our phones or seek out news media or read a magazine? Whatever the reason is, we are able connect in our natural habitat with ease, and connection to others is key. It helps us lead a fulling existence as human beings. That's why team sports, boot camps, or even outdoor theatre and music events are so appealing. It's not just about the activity. It's about feeling fulfilled in all parts of your life. Its about feeling like you are part of a whole. And you are.
Have questions? Want to go green with me or one of the Mind Body Fitness team members? Contact me directly. Also, new clients take 30% off 5 packs all this month. Remember, we come to you, so pick the nearest park and we will see you there.:) We also have 4 more weeks of Boot Camp in Dobbs Ferry!