Sign up to the green gym
The benefits of exercising outdoors extend beyond improving your fitness
‘Exercise in the green gym of the great outdoors is unequivocally good for you’
There is a gift that we can all give ourselves – one that will help us live on average seven years longer, be happier and more productive at work, and help to prevent and treat over 40 major diseases. Think how much you could charge other people for that kind of curative power… but the best thing about this gift is that it’s free. These are just some of the benefits of regular exercise – putting one foot in front of the other and running regularly. As a doctor, exercise is one of the most powerful treatments I can offer for a range of health issues. Some of its benefits are listed in the table below:
As amazing as these are, for myself – when it really comes down to why I exercise – it’s all about happiness. And great just got better. By getting out in nature’s gym – the great outdoors – studies have highlighted additional benefits that accompany exercise, with connection to nature and fresh air being good for your health in their own right.
To me, this is an example of science proving common sense. All the memories I can recall of running are on the trails; on the beach, up mountains, hearing a branch crack under your feet in the woods, or stomping through a puddle. I honestly cannot remember a single treadmill session with anything like the sense of invigoration I get from running in the outdoors. And science supports this, with increased satisfaction, selfefficacy and confidence shown for a range of outdoor activities when compared to exercising indoors. So, the argument is compelling – exercise in the green gym of the great outdoors is unequivocally good for you. But how do you exploit these natural spoils? Here are some tips from our studies at the Scottish Running Clinic at the University of Edinburgh.
Have a target
The human body works best with a focus and sense of purpose. Entering a race or setting yourself a goal – like a new PB – can help you lace up your shoes on a rainy day. I started only being able to run for 30 minutes, and I struggled with it. Every so often I simply set myself a new target.
Lace up great shoes
Spend your time taking amazing pictures and admiring the sights and sounds in the outdoors, not slipping around in the mud – or worse, on the physio’s table! My current favourites are the Merrell All-Out series.
Start slow and build up
Starting big may sound and feel great on day one, but beginning with shorter runs or walks builds confidence and fitness without the accompanying injury risk. No matter how slowly you’re going, you are lapping everybody on the couch.
Waterproof your phone
I usually fifind something to snap when I’m out, and we live in the UK, so it’s going to rain more often than not. I keep £5 in the cover of my phone, too, to grab something to eat on the way home.
Run with friends
Suggest to go for a walk or run rather than – or, more likely, in addition to – the pub. You’ll be doing your friend a favour, and a bit of company can help with motivation.