Spring has arrived and the sun is now setting after 6pm for the first time in a few months, and while it isn’t quite leave-the-jacket-at-home time (if such a time exists in Ireland), it does start getting a bit easier to leave the house without getting soaked to the bone and/or chilled to the marrow.
For many the Gym is seen as the beginning and end of their fitness plan, and while a good gym with decent staff is very valuable, particularly in Ireland where indoors is very often an absolute must, everyone should try and get some exercise outdoors if the weather allows, as there are a number of important benefits.
The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
Some years ago a team at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry analysed a number of existing studies that compared the effects of outdoor exercise initiatives with those conducted indoors. This review concluded that there are benefits to mental and physical well-being from taking exercise in the natural environment as most trials showed an improvement in mental well being.
Exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalisation, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date (1).
Our Natural Habitat
We did not evolve in an environment of steel and concrete, and on some primal level our bodies are aware of that, and they don’t like being surrounded by grey. There has been a raft of research over the past number of years that proves that simply being around trees makes us more focused, less stressed, and generally happier. Several scientific studies across a number of cities globally have found that the proximity and density of trees relevant to where we call home directly influences how happy we feel, and even how long we live for (2).
Getting out of the gym can make it a bit easier to put in longer hours of exercise too, compare the idea of going on a six hour hike to spending the same amount of time on treadmill and you’ll see what I mean. Outdoor pursuits can be also a good way to kill a few birds with the one stone as you can organise groups of friends to go on outings together, or even bring the kids if you have any.
Leaving out the incredibly obvious outdoor things you can do like jogging or cycling, and field sports like football, GAA, or rugby, here are a few other ideas that are worth doing this spring:
A personal favourite of mine, combining all the best aspects of outdoors, exercise, and Call of Duty. It’s a good day out, it’s a great way to spend time with friends, and who doesn’t feel at least slightly awesome when they are decked out in the all the protective gear. Some paintballing venues are better than others, so have a Google and see what’s out there. I’m partial to Skirmish in Wicklow which would suit anyone in the Leinster area. It’s proper outdoorsy, and as you can see from the picture below, the set up is brilliant.
Long believed to be the inspiration for rowing machines, actual rowing has the added benefits of moving scenery, the tranquillity of water, and it’s definitely easier to row for long periods of time than it is to sit in the machine, well, I find anyway. Have a good Google of what’s available around you as there are loads of providers, and they can vary in what they offer from the somewhat tame, to the slightly extreme.
This one is particularly suited to families, so if your kids are of a rambling age it could be a really great outdoor choice for you. There are loads of clubs around the country that can be found online, but there’s a handy page on the Irish Orienteering Association’s site that lists a number of clubs, as well as their typical membership which makes it very useful if you are after a family friendly experience.
You may be lucky enough to have a set of Outdoor Gym equipment in a park near you. They have been popping up more and more around the country, and although I have never really given them a serious run out myself, they could be incorporated into a morning jog to turn it into something a bit more. We did ask people on our Facebook Page what they thought of them; some liked them, some didn’t - but at the end of the day if you’re a taxpayer, you’ve paid for them, so you may as well use them!
But whatever you do this Spring, just get out...
(1)The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry. "Benefits of outdoor exercise confirmed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2011. sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110204130607.htm
(2) Living near trees 'makes people live longer and feel happier'(Telegraph, 2009)