Five reasons you should take your movement outdoors

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1) It improves your mood

Around here, we talk all the time about how exercise improves mood. Recent studies have shown that this effect might be enhanced by doing your exercise outside! Even spending five minutes exercising outside has been shown to improve mood levels. Why not pop outside on your lunch break and look at a tree!

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2) It makes you exercise harder

When allowed to self-select walking speed both indoors and outdoors, people walk faster outside! This might be due to a ‘distraction’ factor that exists when exercising outdoors, similar to the affect music can have on your exercise intensity. Take your run from the treadmill to the park and see if you have a better time.

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3) It could decrease your risk of heart attack

Viewing a forest (both a picture, and walking in one in real life) has been shown to increase heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is inversely associated with risk of cardiovascular disease, which means the higher the HRV, the lower the risk! And decreased risk of heart disease is always good.

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4) It can increase your immune function

Certain hormones that are released in times of stress (epinephrine, nor-epinephrine and cortisol) all decrease after being in nature. This is great in itself, but as a bonus, the decrease in epinephrine is associated with an increase in immune function by an increase of natural killer cells! (NK cells get rid of cells that have gone a bit wonky, before they turn into something nasty, like cancer).

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5) Exercise feels easier

When asked to exercise at a given level of perceived exertion (how hard you think you are working) people exercised at a higher intensity when they were outdoors. This means that exercising at the same intensity felt easier, so people increased their effort outside. You can workout at your usual intensity and it might feel easier!

Do you prefer to exercise inside or out? How come? Let me know in the comments!

Gladwell et al. Extreme Physiology & Medicine 2013, 2:3 http://www.extremephysiolmed.com/content/2/1/3

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