Three Health Benefits of an Outdoor Workout
Summer is in full swing in the North Miami and Hollywood areas. Beaches and barbecues beckon us out for fun in the sun as temperatures tick ever closer to the triple digits, but don’t let the South Florida heat scare you back inside. As your Lap Band surgeon will tell you, it’s important to stay active and spend some time outdoors as you work towards your weight loss goals this summer.
Did you know that the average American spends 90 percent of his or her life inside? Our lifestyles are becoming increasingly sedentary, and summer’s sweltering sun and swarms of mosquitoes certainly don’t help. Yet, if you take the proper precautions (i.e. wearing sunscreen, using bug spray, and staying hydrated), spending time outdoors can actually have a number of positive mental and physical health benefits.
As you plan your ideal workout routine for this summer, you may find yourself with an important decision to make: inside or out? Here are three compelling reasons to choose the latter.
Our daily lives are full of distractions, from the advertisements plastered over every surface to the constant draw of cellphone, computer and TV screens. Facebook and Twitter updates, e-mail, text messages—the Information Age threatens us with informational overload at every turn. However, our attention is not limitless and can quickly get exhausted by this onslaught.
Our brains have two different kinds of attention: directed attention, which we can focus voluntarily on our various daily tasks, and involuntary attention, which is an uncontrollable form that we use to pay attention to things like running streams and crying babies. Demands from work, home and our many technological distractions quickly deplete our directed attention, but research has shown that engaging the involuntary attention with views of nature or beautiful scenery can provide the directed attention with some much-needed recovery time.
This practice has proven to be beneficial in reducing mental fatigue in both children and adults and is known as attention restoration theory. If you’ve been feeling brain-drained by the demands of your job or weight loss program, reconnecting with Mother Nature could be just the thing you need to recharge.
In the high heat of the summer months, it can be tempting to seek the shelter of an air-conditioned gym, but the great outdoors offers countless opportunities to increase your activity levels and engage in some fun new workouts. Sure, getting outside may not guarantee that you’ll be active—check out the countless idle sunbathers next time you hit the beach—but few things are better for both recreation and exercise than walking, swimming, biking, gardening, yard work and the many other outdoor opportunities to get yourself moving.
Studies have shown that getting outside may be especially important for children. The average American kid spends about six hours every day glued to electronic media like videogames, computers and television, most of which is spent indoors. In one study, British researchers tracked the activity of 1,000 children with movement sensors and GPS devices and determined that kids were more than twice as active when outdoors. If you have kids, getting them outside is tantamount to getting them to exercise, and few things will encourage them to get out in the sun like your positive example.
Higher Vitamin D Levels
Your skin creates one of your body’s most valuable nutrients when sunlight hits it: vitamin D. It protects you from tons of different diseases, helping you fight off heart attacks and strokes, osteoporosis, cancer and depression, but the majority of Americans do not get enough.
Fortunately, getting more vitamin D is easy—just get out in the sunshine a few times each week, exposing your arms and legs to sunshine for about 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Just make sure not to spend too much time soaking up the rays and be sure to apply sunscreen regularly whenever you plan to be outside for a long time.
Working out in the summer heat is no easy task—you’ll need to expose yourself to exercising outside gradually at first to give your body a chance to acclimate to high temperatures. But with so many benefits to getting fit under the big blue sky, getting out there is more than worth it.