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Woodland wellness: the benefits of exercising in nature

Exercise is a wonderful thing. It releases endorphins, improves both physical and mental health and helps you sleep better. It’s also a brilliant hobby, a great way to meet new people and can even ease stress. But, did you know that where you exercise can make a real difference too?

Running on outdoor terrain is a great way to enhance your workout (Photo: iStock.com)
Running on outdoor terrain is a great way to enhance your workout (Photo: iStock.com)

While most people might automatically think of the gym as the go-to place to work out, surrounded by dumbbells, treadmills and rowing machines, taking things back to basics and exercising outdoors can bring even more benefits. Trees, woods and forests help people feel better, encourage more active lifestyles and alleviate the symptoms of some debilitating conditions. So, it makes perfect sense to combine your daily exercise with a trip to the great outdoors.

What are the benefits of exercising in nature?

There are countless benefits to working out in the woods. Whether you don your helmet and go on a bike-ride, enjoy a run in the crisp morning air or even try your hand at some woodland yoga, you will soon reap some fantastic rewards:

Improving mental health

Scientific studies have shown that ‘green exercise’ can improve self-esteem and mood, as well as reducing anxiety disorders and depression. It’s not just the physiological effects of exercise, such as the release of endorphins, dopamine and serotonin that cause these responses. By comparing different exercise settings, studies showed that regular use of woods or parks for physical exercise reduced the risk of poor mental health, whereas no such pattern was found in non-natural settings like gyms.

Practising yoga outdoors is a great way to de-stress (Photo: iStock.com)
Practising yoga outdoors is a great way to de-stress (Photo: iStock.com)

Reducing stress

Being in or near the natural world has also been proven to reduce stress and increase wellbeing, whether you’re exercising or not. Simply having views of trees, plants and shrubs at work can increase employee wellbeing, and having the same views from a hospital window can decrease recovery time. So, combining nature and exercise is a great way to alleviate stress.

Increasing vitamin D

Of course, being outside in the sunshine when working out is a brilliant way to increase your vitamin D. Vitamin D boosts your immune system, helps fight depression, promotes bone growth and prevents osteoporosis, so it’s an important vitamin to have. Get outside for your workouts from late March to the end of September for the ultimate vitamin D boost.

Getting a better workout

Particularly if you’re a cyclist or a runner, opting to head to the woods instead of the gym can give you a much more intensive workout. While you may be able to adjust the incline on a treadmill or add resistance on an exercise bike, nothing can replicate the terrain outdoors. With steep hills and undulating ground, a workout in the woods is always full of variety, and allows you to push yourself harder.

Alleviating boredom         

As convenient as running on a treadmill or doing a workout DVD might be, nothing beats the thrill of exercising outdoors. It’s a great boredom buster too – you can work out while watching wildlife, trying your hand at foraging and exploring the wonders of the woods.

Saving money

Finally, exercising in the woods is a much cheaper alternative to splashing out on a gym membership. So, if you’re looking to save some money and reap the benefits of the great outdoors at the same time, why not venture out into nature for your next workout?

Boost your wellbeing and work out in your local wood

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