Exercise is exercise, right? So who cares if you're outside at your local track or in the gym at the treadmill? Well, one is better than the other.
Can you guess which one?
And the winner is ... the track. Many studies show that exercising outdoors can help improve your stress levels, anger, depression and your overall mood. Now this does not mean the treadmill is by any means "bad" for you, or that you have to only exercise on the track. It just gives a little bit of a different outlook on exercise.
Here are just a few cardio benefits of working outdoors.
For those of you that fight to burn every single calorie you can during your workout, you may benefit from exercising outdoors, especially if you're running. Here's the deal: The treadmill is great for running -- you can set your treadmill to 5 mph and stay there for an hour. Now, try running at 5 mph outdoors for an hour. Chances are you will feel tired and winded before the hour is even up. Why? The belt on the treadmill helps to push your feet along. Outdoors, there is no belt that is helping you -- it's strictly your own two feet doing all of the work.
Another calorie burner while running outdoors is the terrain. If you're running on the sidewalk in your town, you are going to experience a difference in terrain every couple minutes; the small difference in the ground can make a big difference in your workout.
One more thing that may increase your calorie burn is temperature and wind. Running against the wind requires you to push a little bit harder than you would normally have to inside on a treadmill. Temperature plays a big role also. Your body burns more calories in the heat and in the cold. Whether it's 100 degrees or 30 degrees outside, your body needs to fight to keep your body temperature normal. If you're exercising outside in 100 degree weather, your body is burning calories like a maniac just to try to cool your body down. The same rule applies to exercising in the cold.
As I mentioned, exercising outdoors has been shown to improve many aspects of your mental life. A change in scenery and fresh air help to relieve stress, decrease feelings of depression and anger, and just enhances your overall mood. You don't get fresh air and new scenery in the four walls of your gym.
Recently, people aren't meeting the recommended Vitamin D requirement. You are probably wondering why I am talking about vitamins in an outdoor exercise article but did you know that the best source of vitamin D comes from the sun? Vitamin D does all kind of wonderful things for your body such as increasing bone strength, strengthening your immune system and protecting your body from cancer. So instead of taking that Vitamin D supplement, go for a walk in the park on a sunny afternoon.
It's fun. Honestly, wouldn't you rather play your favorite sport or jump around on a playground than be stuck in a gym?
There are so many more options outside than there are inside. One misconception that many people have is that they must go into the gym, run on the treadmill for 30 minutes, strength train for 30 minutes, and stretch for 10 minutes to reach their goal. And although this could help you reach your goal, you are not limited to a certain program. You can get just as good of a workout in playing soccer with your friends and family than you could alternating between walking and jogging on the treadmill at the gym.
The only way you will be successful on your path to fitness is by enjoying what you do. If you do not enjoy going to the gym, you may find yourself slacking off. Some people enjoy their gym workouts but as a personal trainer, I come across many clients who would rather eat dirt than walk into a gym. You need to have options to successfully reach your goals.
You can't beat free. Many people automatically assume that they must join a gym or purchase a ton of fancy fitness equipment to get in shape but that just is not true. There is a ton of fitness equipment waiting for you if you just step out your front door. Local tracks, parks and fields are just waiting for you to take advantage of them.
Tracks are great for people who focus on mileage or for people who enjoy running. Parks are perfect for people who may have children; you can take your child to the park and let them play around while you do pull ups on the monkey bars. Fields are just right for athletes looking to improve their stamina. You can exercise pretty much anywhere outdoors -- for free.
Not sure where to start? Do some research on your town. Find a local park near your house or figure out where your towns track is. If you're new to the track, here's a sample workout for you:
1. Begin by walking/jogging one lap.
2. Stretch 5-10 minutes, focusing mainly on your legs.
3. Walk 100 meters, jog 100 meters -- also known as High Intensity Interval Training. Repeat this a couple times around -- alter your speed depending on your fitness level.
4. Walk/jog/run up and down the bleachers a couple of times. Bleachers are one of my favorite things to do. They're a great leg workout.
5. Cool down by walking one lap.
6. Finish by stretching another 5-10 minutes.
Remember to drink lots of water and have fun.
P.S. One lap around the track is 400 meters. Four laps around the track is one mile.
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