August 25, 2013

10 Reasons Outdoor Fitness Rocks our Socks

Here in the southern United States Summer is giving way to Autumn. That means college football season, cooler temperatures and more time outdoors. It's our favorite time of the year, and January resolutions notwithstanding, it's the perfect time to work on your health and fitness goals. Here are are ten reasons we think you should join us outside for a little exercise.

1. Exercise longer.

Taking a walk or going for a run outdoors seems to stop time. You will be very surprised at how much time passes when you aren't looking at a clock on the wall or a pedometer on a machine. A change of scenery can combat boredom, reduce more stress and make you less aware of the effort and more aware of the enjoyment. 

2. Burn more calories.

Gym machines are great at imitating the challenges of a natural environment, but nothing beats the real thing. When running, your body is forced to exert more energy as you take on unexpected hills or varied terrain. Even outdoor fitness equipment works better along a trail because you can transition easily from walking along a path to using a chest press or chin up bar. Calorie expenditures are typically 5-10% higher when exercising outdoors.

3. Save money.

Gym memberships aren't cheap. The average member pays over $600 per year to work out in a gym, some pay as much as $1,000. If you aren't a regular at the gym, that can seem like a waste. Home gyms can be expensive, too. Americans spend an average of $150 per year on home exercise equipment. Utilizing a fitness park, jogging track or neighborhood walking path can save you real money each year.

4. Be happier.

According to a report published in Environmental Science and Technology, exercising outdoors creates greater feelings of energy and positive thinking than working out indoors. The same report states that 71 percent of people who take a walk outdoors feel less stressed, compared to 72 percent of people who walk on a treadmill indoors who feel more stressed.

5. Fight germs.

You know how the gym has bottles of hand sanitizer and disinfectant cloths everywhere? That's because when you work out there you are working out with heaps of other people and the germs that came along for the ride. From athlete's foot to MRSA, gym equipment, showers and floors are crawling with more germs than you can count. Exercising outdoors also means fresh air. The EPA estimates indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air.

6. Think more clearly.

In 2011, Jo Barton, Ph.D. released a study that considered the mental health of adults who participated in indoor and outdoor workouts for six weeks. The study concluded that the subjects who exercised outdoors were able to better concentrate and think more clearly. Subjects who exercised outdoors also reported they felt less stressed and had a greater sense of well-being.

7. Workout on your own schedule.

Not every gym is open 24 hours a day/7 days a week. The outdoors, however, is never closed. Nothing is more empowering than being able to exercise whenever you like. Exercising outdoors means there is no class schedule to comply with, no waiting in line for a piece of gym equipment and no dealing with pushy sales people at the fitness center.

8. Be part of a community.

Community groups and social networks like Meet Up and LifeKraze are filled with active outdoor enthusiasts that help keep one another accountable and plugged in to area fitness activities. Working out as part of a group is always more rewarding than working out alone.

9. Workout as a family. 

Even though some gyms offer child care, the facilities are never as fun or engaging as the outdoors. Communities throughout the country are adding fitness parks adjacent to playgrounds so that parents can exercise nearby while their children play. Most communities also provide greenways, trails and walking paths that are ideal for families to walk, hike or cycle together.

10. Train for the rest of your life.

Outdoor fitness products provide an excellent full-body workout for people of all fitness levels. Whether you are just starting your fitness journey or you've been training for years, exercises can be easily adapted to create the level of challenge that's just right for you. Moreover, outdoor exercise is a great way to build functional fitness - providing the strength, endurance and balance you need for everyday activities. From carrying groceries to playing with your children, outdoor fitness can enhance every area of your life.

There's our top ten reasons to lace up and walk out. If you have your own reasons for exercising outdoors, hit us up in the comments section.

Kent Callison