If lockdowns had any positives (other than reducing the spread of the C-word), it’s that they’ve eliminated any embarrassment about public workouts.
Australia’s parks and ovals were littered with individuals staring at their phones while being yelled at by YouTube fitness instructors instructing them to do 10 burpees, humiliation be damned.
And as the lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne continued, the allotted hour of outdoor time became a precious commodity, fostering appreciation for the great outdoors.
The silver lining
Melbourne strength and conditioning coach Mahara Feala says she has seen appreciation continue after the lockdown.
“The one thing I have positively remembered about lockdowns is people’s effort to put more exercise into their daily routine because we were really tested, and that was a way of channeling that energy into something positive. It was really cool to see how people continue to do that after the lockdowns,” she says.
Mahara incorporates outdoor training into her own strength and fitness regimen, and also encourages her clients for its many benefits.
The vitamin in the air
“The first is exposure to vitamin D. Being able to spend time in the sun – in the right way, of course – helps our bodies absorb calcium, which keeps our bones and teeth strong, so that’s huge,” she says.
“If we’re even outside for 30 minutes for the most part, we’re getting our vitamin D in for the day. You don’t have to sunbathe there in your bikini.”
Another benefit is the well-documented stress-reducing properties of the great outdoors.
A 2010 study in the Environmental Science and Technology Journal found that just five minutes of walking outdoors in a green space could improve your mood, with an even greater impact if it was within sight of water.
In addition, there are some surprising additional physical benefits of outdoor training.
The bonus stuff
Wind resistance increases the calorie burn of cycling by 10 percent, according to a study from Harvard Medical School. And a Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Research found that runners got an extra half hour of exercise when they ran outside instead of on a treadmill, with the reason that running outside is less boring.
The complexity of outdoor trails, with obstacles such as tree roots and rocks, also makes for a more mentally challenging training session.
And if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s about the importance of ventilation.
“Exercising outside means we spend less time indoors, breathing the same air as everyone else, which means we are less likely to get sick and get bugs,” emphasizes Mahara.
“And of course, our physical well-being, whether you’re walking, running, exercising or playing with the kids, it can help maintain weight.”
Mix and match
While regular walking or jogging can provide many benefits, Mahara recommends incorporating bodyweight exercises for a well-rounded workout.
“I’ve noticed a lot more external equipment being installed, and they show you what to do and tell you what muscles you’re working out, which is really cool. If someone is stuck for ideas, there will be some kind of equipment around that is super useful,” she says.
But even if there isn’t an installation near you, there are plenty of exercise options you can do without play equipment.
“Run or walk for five or 10 minutes and then do some reps of an exercise so you can mix your strength and cardio,” Mahara says.
Her favorite outdoor exercises are:
- Pull-ups on climbing frames, if you have access to a playground. Bring an exercise band for help if you can’t do a full pull-up without it.
- Bodyweight Squats
- Plank, as long as you can while retaining shape
- glute bridge
SUMMARY: WHY YOU SHOULD TRAIN OUTSIDE?
- Exposure to Vitamin D
- Enhanced Stress and Mental Health Reliever
- Burns more calories than gym equivalents
- More mentally challenging