Updated May 28th, 2021

5 reasons to opt outdoors for your next workout

Heads up! This article was last updated 3 years ago.

Local gyms have reopened with additional protocols for social distancing and cleaning, but many may still be hesitant to hit the gym as often as they once did. If you want to minimize visits to an enclosed area or are looking for a new, fun way to get moving, look no further than the great outdoors. In fact, exercising outdoors can be more productive and provides more benefits than the standard indoor work out.

According to EveryDayHealth.com, moving your body outdoors provides a harder workout, has positive effects on your attitude and mental health, and provides you physical benefits the indoors can’t necessarily offer.

  1. A dose of vitamin D: Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is essential for immune functions, bone strength and enhanced mood. According to com, some researchers suggest that five to 30 minutes sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., twice a week is enough to keep your vitamin D in check.“There are many benefits to working out outside,” said Shawn Haffner of Beavercreek and Kettering Fit Body Boot Camp. “Your body gets more vitamin D being out in the sun, which a lot of people struggle getting enough of.” Even in cool weather months, it’s important to spend time outside, as a lack of vitamin D can contribute to seasonal affective disorder.
  2. More body benefits: Moving your body has myriad benefits, from maintaining a healthy weight to improving your heart health. Make these moves outside for added benefits, including strengthened immunity and better focus.“You can burn more calories being outdoors and sweating it out with creative workouts that promote muscle confusion,” said Haffner. Additionally, Haffner says there is better airflow outdoors and simply being outside can boost your mood, giving you more energy.
  3. Mental wellness: It might not be a surprise that people are challenged with mental health right now. The Washington Post reports that a third of American’s are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression in light of the coronavirus pandemic, according to data from the Census Bureau. Physical activity can give your endorphins a boost and outdoor activity can provide added mind-based benefits.“There’s something about being outside and connecting to nature that really grounds us,” said Tori Reynolds, owner and instructor at Speakeasy Yoga. “It’s almost cliché and corny to say that, but you really are so much closer and more connected to the Earth than when you’re inside on a man made building floor.” According to the American Heart Association, time spent in nature can help reduce depression, stress and anxiety. These mental benefits can spill over into physical benefits, such as a reduction in blood pressure, better sleep and lower cortisol levels.“Getting outside can deliver a sense of peace and calm that being indoors sometimes doesn’t provide,” Reynolds said. “Especially now when we’ve spent a lot of time indoors, in our homes, feeling a bit confined during shelter-in-place and self-quarantining. For me, the expansiveness of being outside can directly effect any feeling of limitation I might be having.”
  4. Budget friendly: Being active in your backyard, on your favorite trail or in MetroParks is free. While many people are trying to stick to a strict budget, cutting out things that contribute to your physical and mental well-being are counter productive when many people are staying in place and under stress more than ever. Find a routine that fits your budget by incorporating outdoor physical activity utilizing equipment and gear you may already have on hand – or is easy to acquire. Hiking, running, jogging, walking and cycling are all great activities that help keep you active.
  5. Try something new or put a new twist on your favorites: Being active outdoors might mean finding a new hobby or simply moving your current workout routine outdoors. For example, those who typically tackle the treadmill may take up trail running, an avid local runner and MetroParks trail technician, Jason Sullivan highly recommends.“Feeling the rocks, grass and water beneath my feet when I run can’t be replicated with an indoor workout,” said Sullivan. “It’s a real sanctuary for me and a place to go to calm my thoughts and just take in the beauty of seeing the world in its natural state and finding peace in the natural cycles of nature through the seasons.” Gardening, outdoor play and neighborhood walks also are great activities for those who want to stay close to home and get moving. If you have a go-to routine that can be done at home, consider moving your workout outside. Many local facilities have classes that be done outside to work up some extra sweat. MetroParks offers free Fitness in the Park sessions, which include yoga, boot camp and dance cardio, all of which can be done outside.
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Some things to consider before you start your outdoor workout:

  • Stay hydrated: Haffer and Reynolds stress the importance of staying hydrated while outdoors, especially when it’s hot. Due to COVID-19, water fountains are unavailable for use in MetroParks, so be sure to pack extra water if you are hitting the trails.
  • Sun protection: While outdoors, it’s always important to dress for the weather. This includes protecting yourself from the sun. Wear sunscreen and a hat to help protect yourself from burning. If possible, Reynolds suggests moving your workout to a shady spot.
  • Tune out to tune in: Sullivan and Reynolds suggest skipping your playlist and tuning into the sounds of nature, which can help you take in your surroundings and be mindful about your movement.

Getting started

If you are new to hiking, cycling or paddling, the MetroParks Trails Challenge is a great way to familiarize yourself with the region’s trails. Five Rivers MetroParks is home to 160 miles or paved and natural surface trails and the Dayton region is home to more than 340 miles of paved trails – the nation’s largest paved trail network. Additionally, the region boasts 270 miles of river corridor to explore. MetroParks’ outdoor recreation team has selected 35 trails that range in mileage and difficulty that you can hike walk, bike, job, run or paddle. Complete as many trails as you want on your own time for a chance to win fun prizes. Learn more and sign up at metroparks.org/trailschallenge.

Hiking: Possum Creek MetroPark and Englewood South Park are excellent places to hike that may be less crowded when you visit. More hiking suggestions.

Cycling, running and walking: There are myriad paved trails to explore in MetroParks and the Dayton region. Find some great suggestions on the Trails Challenge site. For those looking to run the trails, Sullivan suggests the trails at Possum Creek or Sugarcreek MetroPark. For more advanced trail runners, he suggests the Twin Creek Orange Trail.

Yoga and meditation: Visitors can find tranquil spaces for mindful moments in many MetroParks. Head to Aullwood Garden, Wegerzyn Gardens and Cox Arboretum MetroPark to sit peacefully and take in your surroundings.

Help MetroParks keep the natural spaces in MetroParks healthy and thriving by always following Leave No Trace principles in the parks.

If you plan on visiting a MetroPark, check to see what amenities are open at metroparks.org/natureisopen.

Five Rivers MetroParks visitors should always follow the CDC’s recommendations while spending time outdoors. For the most current information on MetroParks’ COVID-19 response and related closures, visit metroparks.org/covid-19 and follow Five Rivers MetroParks on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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