Browsing a copy of the recent Official Guide to the Lake District, I was really struck by their phrase “feel free to use the gym” next to the picture of a woman running through the beautiful Eden Valley. Those of us living in rural areas such as Cumbria are so lucky to have all this wonderful countryside and fresh air available to us with so little effort, but, the benefits of exercising outdoors can be just as strong in an urban environment. Think creatively about activities you would normally do indoors and then discover how being outside can add another dimension to it. So, pick up your Pilates mat, put it on the lawn (or, if you’re feeling a little more of an exhibitionist, take it up a fell or to your local park) and perform a few moves while drinking in the atmosphere and reaping the benefits of Alfresco Fitness.
Enjoy the sun and increase levels of Vitamin D
for adults, you only need 10-15 minutes of sunshine twice a week to get enough Vitamin D and the rest of the time you should practise Safe Sun (and for info, 1 tsp of sunscreen per limb, applied regularly, is recommended). There are numerous studies into the benefits of this vitamin, from helping to regulate blood pressure by releasing natural stores of nitric oxide, boosting the immune system which helps to fight colds and flu, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke and, combined with calcium, helping to minimise the likelihood of osteoporosis.
The sun can help you lose weight!
exercising in bright sunlight before lunch has been shown to aid the synchronisation of the body clock, regulating the metabolism so that you eat less at lunchtime and utilise the calories better. I definitely advocate the maxim “exercise in the morning before your brain knows what you are doing” – now it’s been proven.
Boost your self-esteem
exercising around greenery, whether it’s a couple of plant pots in your back yard or the dramatic vistas of the Lake District mountains makes the exercise seem less strenuous and boosts your self-esteem in the process. Many people, especially women, are intimidated by gyms and all the pumping and preening that can go on and find they enjoy the freedom of being outside and away from those pressures.
Get more energy
A 2013 study by the University of Essex showed that exercising outside gave people more energy – perhaps because they are wasting less of it on worrying what all the other gym bunnies are thinking of them! But it probably has a lot to do with taking in good amounts of lovely, fresh oxygen.
you can go outside whenever you want, for however long a period of time you have, and gain all these benefits with very little planning and organisation, making it so much easier to fit in a little bit of daily exercise.
So, whether it’s a 10-mile hike, or a 10-minute Pilates session, enjoy all the positives of the outdoor gym and get yourself out there.