Monday, April 20, 2009

Fitness In The Great Outdoors

I'm going to sneak out on a limb here and say that Spring just might possibly FINALLY be here. After a crazy snow storm last week, the temperatures look like they might actually be on the rise...for good. Well, at least for a few months. HALLELUJAH! I, for one, need the mental pick-me-up that warm temperatures bring.

While living in the-land-of-serious-dark-all-day-long-winters-Finland for a year and a half, I realized how much I really really love the sun. Winters were SERIOUSLY depressing. I remember looking at my watch at 2:00 in the afternoon while walking around in the pitch dark, thinking, "how am I going to survive the day in the dark for 7 more hours before we go home?" Summers in Finland, however, were heaven. The sun never slept!
In my life, I've discovered two things that really do keep me going. SUN. and EXERCISE. I've been missing the sun in a bad way!
I came across one study that shows the great benefits for children of combining the outdoors AND exercise. This particular study shows how a walk in the park improves attention in children with ADHD. I don't have ADHD, but I have plenty of moments (more than I'd like to admit), where I am mentally fatigued, easily distracted, and NEED TO GET OUT OF MY DANG HOUSE! A brisk walk outside ALWAYS makes me feel better. And running around in the park changes the temperament of my 2-year-old (in a good way) even more than a good nap...which is saying A LOT. This outside-induced-happiness has an even greater effect on my mood. Monster-Mom becomes Fun-Happy-Relaxed-Mom.
Besides being a better parent, here are a few more benefits of exercising outdoors:
  • Running outside instead of on a treadmill increases the caloric burn by about 5 percent (due to wind and changing terrain).
  • Changing temperatures increase calorie burn by about 7 percent because your body has to work to keep the internal temp at 98.6 degrees!
  • SUN + EXERCISE = MOTHER NATURE'S ZOLOFT! This study, conducted in 2007 by researchers in England, found that outdoor workouts (i.e. A walk in the woods, a brief retreat, and even gardening) are ALL Better than anti-depressants alone! When they compared the mental benefits of a 30-minute walk outside with an indoor stroll, 71 percent who walked outside felt less tense after. 72 percent of the indoor walkers felt even more stressed.

The treadmill is one of my fondest old friends. I love that I can look down at any given second, and know EXACTLY how LONG I've been running, how FAR I've been running, how FAST I'm running, how much LONGER I'll be running, etc. I'm a numbers-kind-of-girl. But lately with my training, I've been running outside a lot more. And I have to say, I think I'm officially converted.

I honestly used to prefer the treadmill. Not anymore. When I'm outside, I don't feel like I'm running because I have to. I'm not yelling at kids to stay away from the treadmill, to share toys, to stop hitting each other. I don't increase my speed to hurry and get the run over with. I enjoy it. If the kids are with me in the jogging stroller, they enjoy it. I feel much more rejuvenated at the end. 10 miles outside feels like 4 miles on a treadmill (time-wise). Don't get me wrong. The treadmill has, and will always be my fall-back workout. But this summer, I'm going to take advantage of mother nature. I need it.

And running isn't all I'm going to do outside! Here are a few more outdoor workout ideas:

  • Walking--one of the best lifetime sports!
  • Jogging/Running--need I say more?
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Strength Training at the Park! Seriously...parks are FULL of FREE exercise equipment. Maybe I'll do a full post on this one later...I'm envisioning swing lunges using the swing to elevate the back leg, monkey bars for pull-up(s), straddling benches, swing/slide push-ups, stepping up onto benches, running around the playground, etc.
  • Beach Yoga (for those vacationing or lucky enough to live in Sunny CA)
  • Jumprope!

Are you convinced yet? Are you ready to trade in your gym membership? What gets you moving outside? Or do you still prefer the treadmill?


Erin said...

Cool post. Thanks. I too am glad for the warmer weather. I can't exercise very long outside because of my horrible allergies. Especially in springtime, but I do enjoy sitting outside and letting the sun rejuvinate me before or after a workout.

There is a really cool park on 104th south and 40th west. There's a jogging track that goes all the way around it. There signs every so often around the track that show you strength training and stretching excersices you can do as your making your way around. You should check it out. The kids also get to play while you run (or when you're done) because there's a playground inside of the track.

Anonymous said...

I love running outside when its warm! I feel like I'm actually going somewhere so it takes my mind of off how much longer I need to run!

Lyenna said...

I love it outside. All chores and need-to-do's were put aside and I played with my kids. You never know when it will get cold and snow again. I'm also a much happier person when I've been outside, which I know my kids appreciate. As far as running outside, it ALWAYS feels amazing. The smell of mowed grass and flowers are some of my favorites, you definitely don't get that inside. And Robyn, do you have any suggestions for tendinitis in the knee? Just curious, I think that's what I'm dealing with, which is a total bummer right now.

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Diane said...

When the weather is good, I enjoy walking the hills here in Tennessee. When it's cold, however, I really appreciate being able to go to the gym! I also LOVE going to classes at the gym...especially Yoga! But you are right about one thing. Walking or running outside and enjoying the fresh air and the beauty of the outdoors can't be topped.