Some good excuses (as if you need any) to sweat alfresco!


Spring is here and with it the warm weather -- and with it, yet another study showing a health benefit from moving among the bloom and blossoms. According to this study, strolling through an outdoor green space quiets the mind and lessens stress (duhh). Here are a few more reasons to walk, bike, run, climb, blade and even strength train in alfresco.


You'll work out longer. Whether you power up and down a set of bleachers in your Favorite park or mountain bike along an out-of-the-way forest trail, the distractions of your surroundings take your focus off the effort of working out. As a result, you'll end up going a lot farther than you would have if you'd been indoors. You can press 'stop' on a treadmill, but you can't turn back time after you've walked or jogged three or more kilometres.


You'll obliterate more calories. Research shows that exercisers burn 10% more calories when they walk or run outdoors than they do when they plod it inside on a treadmill at the same speed. When you're caught up in your environment, you're less focused on how worn-out you are or how much your muscles is throbbing. Research shows that where objects rode through a virtual countryside and raced against other people, they exercised 12% harder because they were distracted.


You’ll get off the exercise mat. Parks are good for more than dog-walking and picnics -- they’re an ideal spot for toning. Try this mini-workout: Using a park bench as your prop, do 12 reps each of triceps dips with one leg extended (then switch legs), power jump-ups (squat, then swing arms for momentum and jump on to the bench, landing in a squat) and bicycles (lean back 45 degrees on the bench, with your hands next to your hips). Then hit the grass for some push-ups and punching lunges.


You'll pump up your self-esteem. Nature's stimulation also positively effects your brain. Exercising outdoors improves self-esteem and a walk in the country improves one's mood. Outdoor exercise stimulates all five senses in a way that indoor activities do not. Breathing in fresh air, being one with nature and taking in all the colours and sounds in nature are constructive stimulants hitting you at the same time. This will make you feel better about yourself and the world around you.


You'll feel happier and have a greater sense of whole-being. Connecting in nature makes people feel more alive, according to a series of studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. In a number of other recent studies, volunteers went for two walks for the same time or distance -- one indoors (usually on a treadmill or around a track), the other alfresco. Practically all of the participants reported enjoying the outside activity more and scored significantly higher on psychological tests measuring vitality and energy, and lower in anger and depression.


It’s a stress buster. Many studies found stress was lowered during activities that took place in either "the wilderness or urban nature areas." Here's some recommendation for a stress-busting walk or run: Direct your focus away from your thoughts and try to get your body moving in a tranquil manner. Soften your gaze, breathe deeply into your tummy through your nose, drop your shoulders and direct your energy into your core and away from your head. Try not to plan, think, judge, worry, describe or consider. Breathe out through your mouth.


Money well saved. The average gym membership costs a few bob, which usually makes good spending if you go five times a week. But people who buy annual gym memberships often grossly misjudge how much they'll use the facilities or start out with best of intention which unfortunately tend to fade out as time passes. Running out your front door also saves you cash on petrol.




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