Get Out and Get Moving

Karen Kansler, RN

Most people know that exercise provides many mental and physical health benefits. It helps prevent heart disease and other chronic illnesses, improves mood, reduces stress, improves sleep, and more. But did you know that simply going outside to exercise could increase those benefits? Turns out, it can.

“Outdoor exercise combines two health-enhancing activities: moving your body and getting outdoors,” says Karen Kansler, RN, nurse wellness coordinator in the Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital. “Plus, there are numerous ways to get your exercise outdoors. It can be as simple as a brisk walk around the block or a bike ride in the park. Even light gardening or other yard work is considered moderate physical activity.”

Kansler notes that exercising outdoors offers some other appealing benefits:

A BETTER WORKOUT

When you’re active outdoors your body is encountering a constantly changing environment. To keep up the activity at a consistent pace, you need to adapt to changes in your surroundings such as slight hills or obstacles you may need to dodge. So your body works harder than if you were running on a treadmill or using a stair machine.

EASE OF ACCESS

Lack of time, along with cost, are often cited as barriers to exercise. Navigating traffic, parking garages, and crowded locker rooms adds additional time needed to be active. Exercising outdoors can reduce these time constraints and it’s free. And, many outdoor areas include benches, trees, inclined roads, and even designated exercise equipment, allowing for a variety of resistance-training exercises.

AN IMPROVED STATE OF MIND

Moving outdoors has been shown to reduce anger and depression. Exposure to sunlight enhances vitamin D production, which may be partially responsible for this mood-enhancing effect. You don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefit. Even low-intensity activities will do.

THE CHANCE TO CONNECT

Two of the greatest benefits of outdoor exercise are the opportunity to connect with others in your community and connect with nature … vitamin “N.” Finish your bike ride at a local coffee shop, take an outdoor class, or set up a weekly walking group with friends. Moving, socializing, and just being outdoors is a great way to deepen your appreciation of the world around you, feel energized, and get your daily dose of vitamin “N.”

Don’t let the prospect of outdoor activity scare you. If you’re new to exercise or just getting back into it, start with short exercise sessions and lighter intensity. If you have any health issues, talk to your doctor before starting. “I tell people to have a goal in mind, start slowly, and work up to their potential,” Kansler says. “Outdoor exercise can be adapted to anyone’s level of fitness.”

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This article appeared in the fall 2018 issue of Destination: Good HealthRead more articles from this issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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