Three Reasons to Exercise Outside
After you’ve recovered from band surgery and are ready to start your weight loss exercise routine, you have an important decision to make: inside or outside? Though the stifling temperatures of July in Jacksonville can make it a hard choice, the sunshine and bright blue skies of summer still beckon us outdoors. We flock to beaches and swimming pools to beat the summer heat, but the idea of exercising as temperatures push the triple digits can be understandably daunting.
However, spending more time in the great outdoors can have huge benefits. Though the average American spends nearly 90 percent of his or her life indoors, getting out in the open air can be good for both your physical and mental health. Here are three reasons to brave the heat this summer and slim down outdoors.
Boost your Vitamin D Levels
Your body creates vitamin D when sunlight hits your skin, a nutrient that plays a vital role in protecting your body from various diseases and dangerous health conditions. Cancer, depression, osteoporosis, stoke, heart attack—vitamin D protects us against all of these things, yet the majority of Americans do not get enough.
By getting out in the sunshine just a few times a week and exposing your legs and arms for as little as 10 to 15 minutes, you can boost your vitamin D levels. This means that as you’re pounding the pavement to drop pounds, you can also be soaking up some rays. However, you shouldn’t use this as an excuse to bake in the sun all day—be sure to limit your exposure and always apply sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection and a moderate to high SPF when you plan on being outside for a long time.
The A/C of your local gym may be tempting as temperatures push the triple digits, but why limit yourself to the fitness opportunities of exercise machines and barbells? Getting outside can give you tons of opportunities for recreation that will also give you a great workout. Of course, being outside doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be active (check out the many lazy sunbathers at our local beaches for evidence), but with activities like biking, swimming, yard work, gardening and walking readily available to any weight loss patient, there is no shortage of fun outdoor options that will get you moving.
Outdoor exercise seems particularly important to keeping children active. Research has shown that the typical American child devotes about six hours every day to electronic media like videogames, television and computers, the majority of which is spent inside. British researchers even used movement sensors and GPS devices to follow the activity of 1,000 children and found that kids were more than twice as active when outside, making getting kids outside synonymous to getting them to exercise.
In our modern world, advertisements and technological distractions vie for our attention every moment. Our minds are consistently occupied with Facebook and Twitter updates, television and computer screens, text messages and e-mail, overwhelming our limited attention with the full barrage of the Information Age.
This bombardment can quickly deplete our directed attention, which is the attention we are able to focus voluntarily, but research has shown that spending time in nature can restore it by engaging our involuntary attention, or the uncontrolled attention we pay to things like a babbling brook or a baby crying. Though our directed attention is quickly depleted by technology and demands at work and home, experts say that engaging the involuntary attention by surrounding yourself with nature can give the directed attention some time to recharge.
Called attention restoration therapy, the practice can be very useful for both children and adults who feel mentally drained or have difficulty focusing. In other words, getting a workout in nature will help you both burn calories and refuel yourself mentally.
As you progress toward your weight loss goals this summer, remember the many benefits that outdoor exercise can have for your body and your mind. You should always be careful when exercising in the heat and be sure to stay hydrated and protected from the sun, but getting outside can be a huge help in staying fit and healthy. Just be sure to ask your weight loss surgeon if you’re ready for the strenuous activity of an outdoor workout.