No matter where you live, getting outside for walk is good for your health, fitness, and waistline.
It's official - exercising in the great outdoors really is good for your health, even if you live in a busy urban area. If you've been avoiding powerwalks, bike rides, or hiking because of fears about city pollution, take encouragement from research.
A recent study,(see here) carried out by researchers from the Centre for Diet and Activity research at the University of Cambridge and the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, discovered that exercising outdoors has significant health benefits, even in polluted areas. The study was published in Preventative Medicine, and funded by the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research, and the Wellcome Trust.
The researchers set out to find out whether the health risks presented by exposure to air pollution outweigh the benefit of doing outdoor exercise.
In fact, the risks only outweigh the benefits when pollution reaches the levels present in 1% of the world's cities. And none of those are in the UK.
Those of us living in Europe could safely do 7 hours of cycling or 16 hours of walking in a City before pollution presented a problem. So, it's a green light for outdoor exercise in the UK!
Now we've cleared that up, let's look at the most convincing reasons to get outside and walk, run, or ride your way to better health.
5 Reasons To Exercise Outside
Reduce your risk
Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and strokes are leading health risks in the UK. We can stave off the risk, or manage the effects, by getting more outdoor exercise. And don't forget, you are unlikely to be putting your health at risk by exercising outdoors in an urban environment. The health benefits outweigh the risk.
Get more NEAT
NEAT - non exercise activity thermogenesis - is any activity which isn't official exercise. Walking is a prime example of NEAT. Getting more NEAT into your daily life means you'll burn more calories, keep your waist line in check, and benefit from extra cardiovascular activity.
Boost your mood
Outdoor exercise is great for your happiness. The fresh air and sunlight lift your mood and boost the production of happy hormones like endorphins and dopamine. You don't need to go far or be fast. Even a walk or gentle bike ride will have the desired effect. You'll be more productive when you get back to work, and focus better on other healthy areas of your life when you get home.
Sit less, move more
Most of us spend lots of time sitting down. Getting up and going for a walk, bike ride, run, or bootcamp outside is a great way to offset all that sitting. Our bodies are affected by too much sitting in more ways than you might imagine. Most of us know about the tight hips, shoulders, neck and back. But sitting too much can also affect how deeply we breathe, and even how well our bodies can digest food. Getting outside for a quick workout session will encourage your body to move as it's meant to.
If you're worried about air pollution, then don't avoid outdoor exercise. Embrace it! By walking, cycling, or running outdoors you are helping to minimise car use. Can you use a power walk to run local errands? Or use your bike as part of your commute? Even a run can turn into a useful daily activity: it's easy to run to a postbox!
Great Ideas For Outdoor Exercise In Towns And Cities
- A 30 minute walk during your lunch break
- A power walk around your city's part or green space
- A run to your town's most famous landmark
- Use local playing fields to sprint and jog running intervals
- Use steps or hills for fast walking or running sprints
- Find an outdoor bootcamp session in a park
- Use community football fields for a kickabout
Have you started exercising outdoors now that the sun is out? Where do you like to workout? Let us know in the comments below!