Physical fitness provides countless health benefits.
Step outside for fresh air and breathe in the sense of well-being becomes apparent. Merge the two, and health experts say you have a powerful combination that offers long-lasting benefits.
Heading outdoors for physical activity not only does the body good, it also can be instrumental in preventing disease and boosting your mood, especially on dreary winter days.
Studies have shown outdoor sessions can lower blood pressure, boost the immune system and reduce cancer risk.
Local experts weigh in on some of the additional benefits of outdoor activities, as well as some ideas on how to connect with nature.
Out or in
Walking offers a host of health benefits, but does it matter whether you walk outdoors or indoors?
Khisha Anderson, coordinator of the Well Walkers Club at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago, says walking in any environment can help reduce blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol and improve heart health. But walking outdoors can provide a key aid to maintaining a fitness routine.
The main benefit to walking outside versus a treadmill is atmosphere, Anderson said. People are not as focused on the duty of exercise, watching the timer or mileage.
Instead, when outdoors, people tend to be more attentive to their surroundings taking their mind off their exercise routine.
It provides people the opportunity to smell the roses and enjoy their exercise, she said.
Debi Pillarella, director of bariatric services at Community Healthcare Systems Healthy 4 Life Advanced Weight Loss Center, says even when its cold, getting outside can create feelings of revitalization, reduce tension and increase energy.
You may even burn more calories simply by choosing an outdoor activity versus an indoor activity.
When getting outside when the mercury is dropping, the body works to keep itself warm, and the result is burning more calories, she said. Cold outdoor temperatures are said to activate brown fat, which helps the body heat up and stokes the bodys metabolism.
Theres also no cost to walk or participate in many activities outdoors, Anderson said.
Walking can be done anywhere, at any speed, by anyone, and its free, she said.
Effect on health
Heading outdoors offers several benefits to the body, and overall, can improve a persons sense of well-being, says Michelle Kelleher, a fitness instructor and trainer at the Purdue Northwest Westville Fitness Center.
When we go outside and connect with nature, it helps us connect to ourselves something that can change a day around, she said. This simple act of taking a walk outside also helps improve our overall well-being. Feeling connected and getting fresh air is a winning combo.
Especially in the winter, when the cozy blanket beckons, getting outside is important, says L.J. Mattraw, wellness manager with Franciscan Health Fitness Centers.
Being outdoors is a great way to improve your mood, he said. Physiologically, serotonin levels are usually lowest in the winter. Going outside and getting some sunlight is a great way to increase those levels and put you in a more positive mood.
Research also suggests that vitamin D levels drop in the winter, Pillarella says. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and promote bone growth.
Typically in the winter, we cover our body with warm clothing, compared to the summer, which results in less exposure to the sun where our body gets UVB rays, which limit vitamin D synthesis.
Even a 10-minute daily walk can help prevent vitamin D levels from decreasing, Mattraw says.
Grabbing a friend or workout buddy also can promote accountability and long-term lifestyle changes, Kelleher says.
Setting aside specific times to get outside might also be helpful to make it a natural routine, such as going for morning walks or going in the evening after dinner, she said.
Daily physical activity, particularly outdoors, boosts an individuals circadian rhythm, hormones and neurotransmitters, Kelleher said.
By improving our physical health, our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being improve, too, helping us to stay in balance and centered, she said.
Ideas for outdoor activity
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
If walking, a daily goal should be at least 10,000 steps, which is the equivalent of about five miles, Anderson said.
Going for a peaceful stroll, playing with your kids or taking an outdoor meditation class could greatly uplift your day, Kelleher said. Qigong and yoga are both great options. Dancing in the rain isnt a bad idea either.
After a snowfall, head outside for cross-country skiing, sledding, snowboarding and snowshoeing opportunities, Pillarella says. Many local parks, including the Indiana Dunes National Park, offer opportunities for winter activities.
Even making snow angels, building snow forts or participating in snowball fights can burn calories, she says.
Finding a fun activity is key and will make an outdoor activity something to look forward to, Pillarella says.
If its fun and enjoyable, its more likely to become part of your world, she said.
Though time spent outdoors is encouraged year-round by health advocates, Anderson says its important to keep in mind some precautions to ensure safety.
When walking outside during anytime of the year, especially winter, be mindful of the terrain, she said. Dress in layers when the weather is cold. You can take outer layers off as you warm up.
Drinking water is also critical, she says.
Hydration is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer, Anderson said.
Proper clothing is also key not only for comfort, but safety as well, Kelleher says.
To walk outside in the winter months, one must be prepared with snow pants, hats, coats and gloves, she said. Scarves and face masks are also beneficial.
Pillarella stresses the importance of looking at overall lifestyle changes and incorporating healthful behaviors such as getting outdoors into your routine throughout the day.
The numbers dont lie, and we really need to heed the advice of the experts and realize that although exercise is super important and highly recommended, its what you do when youre not formally exercising that really counts, she said. If you do a formal workout for an hour, but sit the rest of your day, you might be at risk for the active couch potato syndrome.
Studies have shown even among people who exercise regularly, those that exhibit an excessive sedentary behavior are at a higher risk of diseases and death, she said.
Its pretty simple the evidence is clear that the more physically active we are, the more health benefits and disease risk reduction we have, Pillarella said.
Slideshow: Outdoor winter fitness options in NWI
- Many moods of mind-yoga - Bangalore Mirror - March 29th, 2020
- Life may change for us all: How we respond to the coronavirus crisis will be defining, historians say - USA TODAY - March 29th, 2020
- America's Revolutionary Mind: A Moral History of the American Revolution and the Declaration That Defined It by C. Bradley Thompson - The Objective... - March 29th, 2020
- Deep Learning: What You Need To Know - Forbes - March 27th, 2020
- Deep Cleaners Have Their Day in a Nation Paralyzed by a Pathogen - Scientific American - March 27th, 2020
- 6 Ways To Boost Your Inner Zen Right Now - Thrive Global - March 27th, 2020
- Pro Surfer Gabriel Medina On Being The Brand Partner Of Polo Deep Blue Parfum And Competing In The Olympics - Forbes - March 27th, 2020
- COVID-19 and Firefighter Mental Health | Firehouse - Firehouse.com - March 25th, 2020
- Senior edition: Nourishment in your home - Register-Herald - March 25th, 2020
- Google open-sources framework that reduces AI training costs by up to 80% - VentureBeat - March 25th, 2020
- I Think Sex for Pay Is Wrong. Should I Stay With a Partner Who Disagrees? - The New York Times - March 25th, 2020
- Wild Mind Artisan Ales sued its former brewer. Then things got ugly. - City Pages - March 18th, 2020
- LETTERS: COVID-19 on the mind | Letters - Waco Tribune-Herald - March 18th, 2020
- Council Installed Cameras with Facial Recognition on Football Pitch - Dublin Inquirer - March 18th, 2020
- AI Fights the Pandemic (And How You Can Get Involved) - TDWI - March 18th, 2020
- Gardener Jen Kennedy Plants With Palette and Purpose in Mind - Seven Days - March 18th, 2020
- 54% of the People. 12% of the Plays. Atlanta, Do We Have a Problem? - The New York Times - March 18th, 2020
- A History Book That Isn't: Finding A Way To Teach Racism To A New Generation - OPB News - March 18th, 2020
- Graph theory suggests COVID-19 might be a small world after all - ZDNet - March 18th, 2020
- The U.S. Is In A Bear Market. There Could Be A Recession. But This Is Not 2008. - Forbes - March 16th, 2020
- Planning A Team Retreat? Seven Ways To Make Sure It Actually Sticks - Forbes - March 16th, 2020
- Decoding the Future Trajectory of Healthcare with AI - ReadWrite - March 16th, 2020
- Mind Against return on Afterlife with Walking Away and Bloom - The Groove Cartel - March 15th, 2020
- Gardening: Five things to keep in mind with ground cover plants - Bournemouth Echo - March 15th, 2020
- Fit in my 40s: Mamma mia! Can I really work out by singing Abba? - The Guardian - March 15th, 2020
- How Megan Thee Stallion Turned 'Hot' Into a State of Mind - The New York Times - March 15th, 2020
- What Lies Beneath - Earth Island Journal - March 13th, 2020
- Britain is ahead of many of its competitors in technology startups - The Economist - March 13th, 2020
- The Robots Are Coming - Boston Review - March 13th, 2020
- Top AI Announcements Of The Week: TensorFlow Quantum And More - Analytics India Magazine - March 13th, 2020
- Google is building COVID-19 screening website as Trump declares national emergency - VentureBeat - March 13th, 2020
- The case for an AI that puts nature and ethics first, not humans - The Next Web - March 8th, 2020
- How AI and Neuroscience Can Help Each Other Progress? - Analytics Insight - March 8th, 2020
- Devs Takes Its Time to Blow Your Mind - Vulture - March 8th, 2020
- Salt rooms take advantage of the compound's therapeutic benefits for the mind and body - Las Vegas Sun - March 8th, 2020
- Sundar Pichai details Google, Alphabet response to coronavirus and this unprecedented moment - 9to5Google - March 8th, 2020
- Do Insiders Own Lots Of Shares In Deep Yellow Limited (ASX:DYL)? - Simply Wall St - March 8th, 2020
- The man who refused to freeze to death - BBC News - February 27th, 2020
- Wellness At The Deep End Of The Pool - The Pulse - Chattanooga Pulse - February 27th, 2020
- Why Mindfulness is the Next Frontier in Sports Performance - GQ - February 27th, 2020
- Researchers apply developmental psychology to AI model that predicts object relationships - VentureBeat - February 27th, 2020
- This was meant to be the year the NHS went digital. What happened? - Wired.co.uk - February 27th, 2020
- Tools to help graduate students discover their own answers to academic and career questions (opinion) - Inside Higher Ed - February 27th, 2020
- Unleashing the Power of Three - Thrive Global - February 27th, 2020
- Letter to the Editor: Deep state exists only in Trump's mind - Fairfield Daily Republic - February 24th, 2020
- To Change Voters Sympathies, Its Time to Go Deep - The American Prospect - February 24th, 2020
- Camden takes tech crown as it leads UK for new business creation - City A.M. - February 24th, 2020
- These Fevered Days a fresh exploration of the wild terrain of Emily Dickinsons mind - The Boston Globe - February 24th, 2020
- Hekate's Key Journey And The Keys Of Spiritual Journeying | Hekate's Key - Patheos - February 22nd, 2020
- Google parent Alphabet is pruning its 'other bets' - Engadget - February 22nd, 2020
- Can mysticism solve the mind-body problem? - The Stute - February 22nd, 2020
- Review: 'The Lodge' is a slow-burn attack on the mind (Includes first-hand account) - Digital Journal - February 22nd, 2020
- How quieting the mind can benefit your life - Bangor Daily News - February 22nd, 2020
- Is The Recent Criticism For OpenAI by MIT Technology Review Unfair? - Analytics India Magazine - February 22nd, 2020
- The messy, secretive reality behind OpenAIs bid to save the world - MIT Technology Review - February 22nd, 2020
- The Mind-Altering Power of Deep Animal Connection - Sierra Magazine - February 13th, 2020
- Google Health, the company's newest product area, has ballooned to more than 500 employees - CNBC - February 13th, 2020
- Ryan Evans: Every invention begins with a curious mind - Akron Beacon Journal - February 13th, 2020
- Five Principles of Success - Thrive Global - February 13th, 2020
- Get Lost in the Mind of Yheti with New Album 'The Party Has Changed' [Album Review] - EDM Identity - February 13th, 2020
- 'This Is Us' Season 4: Kate in Abusive Relationship Hannah Zeile - TVLine - February 13th, 2020
- New decade, new you: 10 things you really can set your mind to doing in 2020 and beyond - Omaha World-Herald - February 11th, 2020
- DeepMind trains robots to insert USB keys and stack colored blocks - VentureBeat - February 11th, 2020
- Alabama man's Habitual Felony Offender Act sentence caused 'deep pain' for his sister, the last surviving member of their family - Southern Poverty... - February 11th, 2020
- Dan McCaslin: Post-Stroke Hiking and the Skylike Mind - Noozhawk - February 11th, 2020
- Slippery fish: How to remember your dreams - Thrive Global - February 11th, 2020
- Google's DeepMind AI trained by group of researchers to detect Breast Cancer - Brinkwire - February 11th, 2020
- How To Stay Motivated When Starting a Business - Thrive Global - February 11th, 2020
- New Poll Shows Deep Red Kansas Slipping Away From Trump And Republicans In 2020 - PoliticusUSA - February 11th, 2020
- Sundance 2020: Into the Deep Review: A frightening look inside the mind of a madman - AIPT - February 8th, 2020
- How three minds of the body Brain, heart and gut, work together for producing Happiness - Thrive Global - February 8th, 2020
- Do this 1 thing before bed for greater happiness and success - Ladders - February 8th, 2020
- River guides don't mind the rain - The Baxter Bulletin - February 8th, 2020
- What Made Virginia Change Its Mind on Guns? - The New York Times - January 30th, 2020
- How to talk someone out of bigotry with deep canvassing - Vox.com - January 30th, 2020
- Advancing AI Through Collaborative Sprints at VA - GovernmentCIO Media - January 30th, 2020
- The connection between Penn wrestling and engineering is one that runs decades deep - The Daily Pennsylvanian - January 30th, 2020
- iPhone Sales and Wearables Help Crush Apple Earnings - Nasdaq - January 30th, 2020
- This AI startup went viral after fooling airport facial recognition with printed masks. Here's the pitch deck it used to raise $73 million from... - January 30th, 2020
- Health Beat: Promoting vitality connects the mind and body - Missoula Current - January 29th, 2020