Why Green Spaces and Water Make a Difference
While it is true that I prefer it, It's more than just a preference. I am drawn to it. figuratively and literally. My biology, and yours, yearn to be in natural spaces. Every time I go for a run outside my day is set up right out of the gate. Its warming up soon and my workouts will go into grounding (no shoes) in the back yard.
But before I get ahead of myself, let me be clear that when it comes to exercise, simply finding a routine that is enjoyable and sustainable is key to long-term success. So if you find the gym the more sustainable option for you, then it's the best option for you.
While indoor gyms and fitness centers do offer convenience and shelter from the elements, there's growing evidence that exercising outdoors, particularly in green spaces or near water, can be easier to stick to and provide additional benefits for our physical and mental well-being.
Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature has a positive impact on our mental health and overall well-being. A review of 10 studies published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that exposure to natural environments, such as parks, forests, and green spaces, can reduce stress, improve mood, and increase feelings of well-being, and that those who exercise in green spaces reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction compared to those who exercised indoors. I know I sure do!
And of course, enjoyment and satisfaction are key to a sustainable program. It makes perfect sense then that exercising in green spaces has been linked to increased adherence to an exercise routine. A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that individuals who exercised in natural environments were more likely to continue with their exercise routine and had a lower risk of dropping out compared to those who exercised indoors.
The Way of Water
Water-based activities, such as swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, or even walking by the beach, can also have unique benefits. The color blue has been shown to have a calming effect on the mind, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. (I can attest to this just getting back from Hawaii.) A study published in the journal Health & Place found that individuals who lived near water were more likely to engage in physical activity compared to those who didn't, suggesting that the presence of water can serve as a motivating factor for exercise. It seemed like everyone was outside running/walking near the water in Hawaii. Water-based activities can also provide resistance and low-impact options for exercise, making them suitable for people with joint or mobility issues.
In addition to the mental and emotional benefits, outdoor exercise can also provide physical advantages. Exercising outdoors often involves uneven terrain, which can engage different muscles and provide a more varied and challenging workout compared to indoor exercise on a flat surface.
For example, walking or running on a trail or hiking through a park can activate muscles in the ankles, knees, and hips in ways that treadmill or indoor track running may not. This can help improve balance, stability, and overall functional fitness, which is increasingly important as we age.
So, why is it easier to stick to an exercise routine when done outdoors, especially in green spaces or near water? One reason is the concept of "biophilia," which suggests that humans have an innate connection with nature and are naturally drawn to it. Exercising in natural environments can tap into this intrinsic human affinity for nature, making the experience more enjoyable, and more likely to be sustained over time.
The takeaway is, that movement is always good, and you should get it in in whatever way you can. But, if you are having a hard time with consistency, try incorporating outdoor exercise.
The combination of nature, fresh air, and exposure to green spaces or water can make exercise more enjoyable, increase adherence to an exercise routine, and provide additional physical challenges.
Bodyweight in the backyard and running by the lake are my favorite outdoor workouts. I am really going to focus on both of these this year what are yours?
Mahalo! I’m keeping the Hawaiian vibe going up in here as long as possible! 🌺