Why Exercising Outdoors Makes You Much Healthier and Happier

With the arrival of spring, you’ll have more reason to get out and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Here are a few health benefits of taking your workout or yoga practice outdoors and enjoying the healing power of nature.

Improve Sleep – Daily exposure to sunlight naturally regulates circadian rhythms – your body’s internal clock – for a better night’s sleep. Regular exercise can further improve sleep quality by helping you get to sleep sooner and increasing deep sleep.

Release More Feel-good Hormones – Outdoor exercise is a natural anti-depressant. Exposure to sunlight increases the hormone serotonin, which can elevate your mood and lessen anxiety. Exercise, by itself, can lift your spirits by releasing brain chemicals called endorphins. When you combine the powerful effects of exercise with time spent outdoors, you multiply theses feel-good hormones, which increases your sense of well-being and helps ward off depression.

Increase Vitamin D Production – When your skin is exposed to direct sunlight, it produces vitamin D3. This vitamin stimulates the absorption of calcium, which is essential in maintaining strong bones. Vitamin D also helps fight off infections. Deficiencies in Vitamin D can increase the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and some cancers. (If you will be out in the sun for more than 10 or 15 minutes, be sure to apply sunscreen to protect your skin from UV rays.)

Burn More Calories – The constantly changing outdoor environment creates more challenges for your body. Wind resistance makes you burn more calories, especially when you’re running or cycling into a headwind. Walking, jogging or practicing yoga on an uneven terrain also requires more muscle engagement of the ankles, feet and core than a flat, uniform surface.

Stay Active Longer – Swapping out a cramped, dimly lit yoga studio for a bright, natural environment can help revitalize your energy after a long day’s work. When you’re outdoors, you’re more engaged and stimulated by the sights and sounds of nature around you, which enlivens all of your senses. A 2012 University of California-San Diego study of older adults showed that those who exercised outdoors were significantly more active — working out longer and more often than those who exercised indoors.

Save Time and Money – Instead of fighting rush hour traffic to get to the gym or yoga studio, do some sun salutations in your backyard or take a yoga class at your local park. Consider taking an early morning bike ride or a walk after dinner — with the added benefit of greeting neighbors you see along the way. Plus, save money on expensive gym or studio memberships and gas.

Heal the Body and Mind – The benefits of exercise and yoga are well-established, and when you combine them with spending time outdoors, they have the potential to dramatically improve your health by elevating your mood, strengthening your immune system, improving your sleep and increasing production of the essential vitamin D3. Being surrounded by greenery, feeling the gentle breeze and sun on your skin and hearing the sounds of birds chirping can help lower your stress level and replenish your energy. Plus, it’s very grounding to feel the grass or sand between your toes as you balance in tree pose gazing up at swaying branches and the blue sky.

Meditate More Easily Outdoors – One of the best ways to wrap up your outdoor activities is with a few minutes of meditation sitting under the shade of a tree or on a park bench. When you connect with the beauty and tranquility of nature around you, it draws you inward, creating a deeper sense of gratitude and calmer mind.