Written by: Sally Jacques
Whether you are a skier, a biker or a trekker, you may have heard of SheJumps’ many programs and campaigns, designed to foster physical and mental wealth through outdoor activities, and to give women the useful resources through adventure, education and community building. If you’ve ever wondered why the outdoors is SheJumps’ chosen venue to bring out the very best in you, then you may find this post on the many benefits of outdoor activities, useful. Exercising in the embrace of Mother Nature does much more than improve your cardiovascular fitness; it also makes you happier and more relaxed, and even helps you burn more calories!
Bust stress through exercise Stress is a killer, since when present at chronically high levels, it can increase your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes and mental conditions like depression and anxiety; unfortunately, stress-related conditions are very common in the US: depression affects one in every 10 Americans, while around 18% of us have anxiety. Physical activity always wields significant benefits as far as lowering stress is concerned, but its effects are enhanced when we take it outdoors. In a recent study, it was shown that walking outside lowers levels of stress hormone, cortisol, and lowers blood pressure and total cholesterol levels, in addition to helping excess weight drop off.
In the mood for powder Studies have shown that skiing, being a moderate-to-vigorous form of physical activity, stimulates the brain to release feel-good hormones such as endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. One study, published in the journal, Applied Research in Quality of Life, measured the levels of happiness and satisfaction in 279 skiers in three top skiing resorts in South Korea. The results showed that those who most enjoyed what they were doing, and who allowed themselves to get lost in ‘the flow,’ reaped the greatest satisfaction from the sport. The scientists noted that fervent skiers reported great fulfillment and happiness from the sport, but that even occasional or one-off skiing adventures bestowed significant positive effects on participants.
Keeping lean and mean Outdoor exercise burns more calories, since it places greater demands on your body, presenting terrain changes and wind resistance which cannot be replicated in a gym setting.
Working on your Vitamin D dosage Statistics show that many of us spend around 90 percent of our time indoors; this means that we may not be getting all the Vitamin D we need, which can lead to osteoporosis in our older years. The National Osteoporosis Society recommends that we get at least 10 minutes of sun during peak hours, in the Winter months and a great way to obtain this much (and a bit more) sun is through fun outdoor activities.
Upping the fun factor In a number of recent studies, participants have been instructed to walk the same distance outdoors and on a treadmill. In practically all of the studies, participants reported greater enjoyment of the outdoor activity. After walking outdoors, they also reported greater vitality, self-esteem and enthusiasm, and less depression, tension and tiredness. Perhaps owing to the greater enjoyment from outside sport, those who take it outside tend to exercise more often, and do so for longer periods, than those who limit their workouts to the gym.
The nature effect A recent study on children showed that those who were engaged in ‘green exercise’ were more likely to experience the health-enhancing effects of exercise. In the study, the children were asked to cycle moderately for 15 minutes, once while viewing a video of a bike track in the woods, and another time without any visual aid. After the simulated ‘green workout,’ children had significantly lower blood pressure, which is linked to a lower likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. If simply watching a video can produce such positive effects, can you imagine what authentic outdoor exercise does for your body and mind?
There can be no doubt that exercising in Nature wields a very particular brand of magic. It relaxes us, makes us feel more revitalized and fosters a positive outlook on life. Add on the great value of meeting new people and expanding your social network and you’re on to a winning way to live life to the fullest!
Citations: Healthline.com, Unhappiness by the Numbers, accessed March, 2015. New York Times, The Benefits of Exercising Outdoors, accessed March, 2015. Coventry University, Health benefits of ‘green exercise’ shown in new study, accessed March, 2015. University of New Hampshire, The Benefits of Skiing, accessed March, 2015. Medicaldaily.com, Why Skiing is Good for Your Health: Skiiers are Happier, Healthier after Hitting the Slopes, accessed March, 2015. The Times-Tribune.com, Outdoor Exercise Burns More Calories, accessed March, 2015.