By Shannon Ortiz, LPCCS, RYT200, SPS
As a both a licensed clinical counselor and yoga instructor/sports conditioning specialist who works with clients on both their physical and mental health, the questions I get most often are about two things: “How do I feel better?” and “How do I look better?”
Feeling better includes mood, sleep, and energy. Looking better most often includes losing weight, but it encompasses so much more than that as “looking good” is subjective to the individual asking the question. When it starts to get nice outside, which is a crapshoot in northeast Ohio, I immediately take my sessions (mental or physical) outside. Walk and talks are my most favorite, but it can take on many forms. Here’s why.
We all know, or should know, the benefits of working out, right? Anyone, anyone? If not, there’s an app for that, or Google at the very least. What you may not know are the benefits of taking your workout out, as in outside. We all want to get more bang for our buck, something for nothing, or even to kick it up a notch. “BAM!” Taking your workout routine outside might be the easiest (and cheapest) way to do that.
There’s actually a long list of reasons to enjoy the great outdoors, but let’s keep it simple. Most of the reasons being in nature is beneficial to your workout have to do with the benefits to our brain and bodies. If our brains and bodies feel good, our performance in whatever activity we are doing, including exercise, will inherently be better.
It must be said we will be better at everything we do. You will be better in your relationships, at your job, at everything you do in life. It’s kind of going back to the old adage, “Look good, feel good.”
Here is a short list of what going outside does:
- Exposes us to important Vitamins, like Vitamin D: boosts immune system and mood regulation;
- Releases endorphins: lowers blood pressure and heart rate, which lowers the release of stress hormones like cortisol;
- Regulates and resets bodily rhythms: body biorhythms like sleep and digestion are impacted.
What happens when you wake up after a good night’s sleep feeling energized because your immune system is in tip top condition, and you’re relaxed because your brain is producing the appropriate amount of happy chemicals it needs to feel emotionally healthy? You perform better! Whether it be yoga in the park, a long run on the trail, or being a more present parent and supportive spouse; you do better because your mind and body feel better.
We spend a lot of time finding the right running shoes or yoga mat in hopes those things will help us be our best at that particular activity. Eating enough, sleeping enough, and being in a good mood are one and the same to buying all the gadgets to improve your performance.
Another benefit to your workout is increased social connectedness. Studies have shown that people who go outside are more socially connected by nature, pun intended. Unless you’re inviting the community to your treadmill in your basement, taking your exercise to the local park puts you in contact with other people who are like minded. The benefits of social connections are just as long as the benefits of exercise, but in this case, the accountability of joining a running group or a bike club can help those who need extra support and motivation.
The director of your local park’s recreation department knows this, and many communities are holding events surrounding this idea. Taking your workout out to the local park not only makes us better athletes, but better humans. Check with your local park and recreation department for exercise programs near you. Know better. Do better. Go out. Work out!
Work Out – Literally