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5 ways getting outside can help you get fit

by Kelton Wright

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Training routine starting to feel, well… a little routine? With spring on the horizon, it’s time to take your workouts outside, helping you increase and maintain some mindfulness in your training. How exactly do fresh air and green spaces amplify your ability to be present in a workout? Let’s break it down:

1. Running workouts become more complex.

When you hit the trails or even the pavement, running movements become more varied. Studies have found that when running outside, we actually flex our ankles more, not to mention use the muscles required to run downhill — an action difficult to replicate on a treadmill. It’s also been show that running outside requires more exertion than using the treadmill, even when taking the flat route. Basically, when you run outside, you have to pay attention. So skip the treadmill autopilot and focus on your foot placement.

2. Cycling outdoors engages different muscles.  

Cycling effort is also increased when you hit the road rather than clipping in to an indoor bike. Wind, terrain, and balancer muscles all come in to play when heading outside. All these variants bring your attention front and center — you might still zone out on a climb, but you’ll need your full attention on terrain, descents, and any time you encounter traffic.

3. You might just like it more.

Several recent studies have also shown that even just walking outside (compared to inside) can bring a person more joy. Participants were asked to go on two walks of the same length: one inside on the treadmill and one outside. In almost all of the studies that used this model participants reported simply enjoying the walk outside more. They also scored higher on measures of enthusiasm and self-esteem on follow-up psychological tests. While these studies were both short and small, they’re promising.

4. Working out outside might decrease stress.

In a few smaller studies, it was shown that working out outside actually decreased cortisol, a hormone related to stress, compared to when people worked out inside. In Japan, forest-bathing has seen a surge in popularity, too: in several studies it’s been shown that forest environments actually lower pulse rates, blood pressure, and concentrations of cortisol. Time to head to the woods.

5. It might feel easier to work out harder.

One study even showed that we may self-select to walk faster outside than we would inside. The participants in that study also reported a lower rating of perceived exertion on their outdoor walks. Our perception of effort outside may lead to us getting in a harder workout.

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Want a mindful workout? Download the Nike+ Training Club app.

Kelton Wright

Kelton Wright has been working with Headspace since early 2015. She is the author of Anonymous Asked: Life Lessons from the Internet’s Big Sister, as well as the guidebooks City Cycling Los Angeles and City Cycling San Francisco. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @keltonwrites.

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