Do you find it difficult to motivate yourself to go to the gym? Do you find it hard to exercise at home? Perhaps you tend to put it off until later in the day? Or do you tell yourself you’ll do it another day, but it just doesn’t happen? If so, you’re not alone. Life is busy and many people struggle to feel motivated enough to fit exercise in. However, you can boost your exercise motivation by heading outdoors. For a healthy habit to stick, there needs to be plenty of reward for doing it. Where exercise is concerned, doing it outdoors can be both motivator and reward. Consider these top 5 reasons why you should do you fitness routine outdoors today:
Boost motivation by spending time in nature
Exercise alone has many health benefits. These include improvements in cardiovascular function, insulin sensitivity, blood fat levels, muscle strength, bone density and balance. But sometimes that’s just not enough motivation to get the exercise done. Did you know that being in nature provides other health benefits that may well give you that added incentive you need? When we hit a mental wall at our desks, going for a short walk can often help us move past that block. Stress, negative mind chatter, blood pressure, mood and self-esteem are also all reduced or improved when we spent time in nature.
Boost motivation and immunity
The last couple of years has led to a lot of talk about immunity. Nature provides us with chemicals that can improve our immune function. If you go into a forest you’ll be exposed to phytoncides from trees. Trees produce these antimicrobial and insecticidal chemicals to help protect them. These essential oils also benefit us too. They have been found to improve immune function by increasing the number and activity of natural killer (NK) cells and anti-cancer proteins. In one study, increased NK activity from a 3-day, 2-night forest bathing trip lasted for more than 30 days!
Boost your Vitamin D
Being outside where and when the sun shines, boosts levels of vitamin D. The sun falling on our skin makes this wonder vitamin which is important for healthy bones, muscle function and brain cell activity. It also helps dampen down inflammation, enhance the function of immune cells, is an antioxidant and has neuroprotective properties. Be careful not to get too much sun though. According to the British Skin Foundation, for lighter skin types 10-15 minutes of daily sunlight between April and September provides sufficient year-round vitamin D, whilst minimising the risk of sun burn and skin cancer. 25-40 minutes of sunlight is recommended for darker skin types.
Boost your natural light exposure
Getting natural light, even without the sunshine, is important for our body clocks. The average Westerner spends 90% of life indoors which means less natural daylight and more light at night. Even small increases in exposure to bright light in the daytime can improve sleep, cognition and mood as well as speed up recovery from illness. For example, patients in hospitals recover faster when they have access to daylight. Morning light exposure is best for setting the body clock, increasing alertness and reaction speeds. Therefore, try to head out in the morning for your chosen form of fitness. This will also get your exercise box ticked, giving you a sense of achievement that will help carry you through the day.
Boost motivation by making it fun!
The most important thing about doing any form of fitness is that you should enjoy it! Doing exercise with others is one way it can be more enjoyable. Sociable fitness does wonders for your mental health improving mood, confidence and stress levels. Team sports probably spring to mind but if they’re not your thing, there are a huge number of sociable, outdoor activities on offer these days, from fitness classes and boot camps to Nordic Walking and sea swimming.
The take home
You can boost your exercise motivation by heading outdoors. Doing outdoor exercise provides you with a host of mental and physical health benefits that will both motivate you to exercise and reward you for doing so. Simply getting out of the house and into a natural environment usually involves exercise of some sort. It might only be a short walk but remind yourself that however small, it is beneficial. You are doing more than you would have done had you stayed indoors where your motivation to exercise was low, so give yourself a big pat on the back and feel good about it!