Outdoor exercise

In the space of a few generations, Western culture has shifted from being outdoors-centric to indoor-focussed. It’s certainly true that the majority of us spend way more time at a desk or holed up at home than out and about in the fresh air.

In fact, Australia’s Department of the Energy and Environment reckons we’re spending a massive 90 per cent of our time inside. But what are the health risks associated with this drastic change? And what can we gain from reconnecting with the great outdoors?

Staying in is not the new going out

It might surprise you, but according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air found indoors is actually often more polluted than the air outside. This is in part due to the huge amount of pollutants found inside, including oil, building materials, and allergens that are filtered through heating and cooling systems. It means spending time outside is – quite literally – a breath of fresh air for your health.

The bones of the problem

Air quality isn’t the only reason to get outside, though. The sun is a vital source of vitamin D –which helps your body absorb calcium. A deficiency in vitamin D can increase your likelihood of breaking or fracturing a bone, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough rays. Just a few minutes per day outside in clear weather will help you to reach your quota. Take a jog through the park or try yoga on the beach to up your intake. Just remember the Aussie sun can be unforgiving, so it’s important to be smart about your UV exposure during the day as well.

Clear your mind

It’s not just your physical health that benefits from a stint in the great outdoors. Quality time outside can be beneficial to your mental health, too. One key study assigned 60 participants either a walk in an urban or natural space and then compared their psychological states before and after the exercise. The research found those who walked through nature recorded decreases in both anxiety and negative thoughts – and even increases in memory – compared to the urban group.

 Outdoor exercise is easier

And you know what’s even better? Research suggests we actually perceive outdoor exercise as being less strenuous, and therefore more enjoyable, than the same workout completed indoors. That means if you’re trying to build healthy exercise habits you should try swapping the treadmill for a hike in the bush, or taking up an outdoor sport, like volleyball or stand-up paddle boarding, because you’re more likely to repeat activities your brain recognises as a positive experience.

If you’re an HBF Health Member you’d like to put this theory to the test, you can register for a free HIIT session under the guidance of a qualified HBF coach. Or if you’d prefer to ease in, register for a free beginners’ class to start you on your fitness journey.

Mother Nature’s power house

Want to kick start your weekend in the best possible way? Ditch your morning caffeine hit for an outdoor HIIT session available at 19 locations. Spending just 20 minutes in nature gives you the same energy boost as a cup of coffee, according to research, so if you already love the buzz you get after a morning gym session, imagine how good you could feel if you did the same circuit in the fresh air.