Summer is officially here, and that means means long, sunny days, fewer layers and warmer temperatures. Yet despite the beautiful weather, if you’re like most people, you’re still taking your workouts indoors.
And unless you’re a runner, tennis player or an ultimate frisbee star, you’ve probably spent most of your life exercising inside, whether it’s in a stuffy gym, a tiny apartment, or in random hotel rooms.
But the truth is, exercising indoors can be a bit… uninspiring. Seeing the same thing day after day may make you feel like you’re a hamster in a wheel—plus, it’s pretty boring at times.
The simple answer?
Try taking your workouts outside!
All you have to do is head to your backyard (if you have one), or even to a local park, beach, or playground—and get sweaty.
Sure, you’ll feel silly at first, and don’t be surprised if you get a few strange looks from curious bystanders (don’t worry, they’re only jealous of your incredible strength). But ultimately, working out outside packs so many benefits you’ll soon forget you’re feeling uncomfortable at all and start working even harder than normal (you don’t want strangers thinking you’re a total wimp, do you?).
Here are 7 convincing reasons you should work out outside:
1. More energy
When you work out in the outdoors, you’re bound to come away with your workouts feeling more energized, not less.
Because while the exercise itself is sure to reinvigorate you when you’re feeling less than invigorated, fresh air can up the effect even more.
In fact, a 2009 study from the University of Rochester found that just 20 minutes of moderate exercise outside can boost your energy levels as much as a cup of coffee. And if you’re doing HIIT, that effect is sure to multiply even more.
2. Greater strength + endurance
When you’re on a treadmill or lifting weights indoors, you’re pretty likely to stick to your predesignated workout and only work as hard as you have to in order to finish as soon as humanly possible.
But exercising outdoors may be the motivator you need to push longer and harder than ever before, since training outdoors may make you feel less like you’re in a torture chamber and more like you’re moving as nature intended.
Plus, it’ll keep you coming back for more: a 2011 survey found that exercising outdoors is a reinforcing behavior, and that “outdoor exercisers declared a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date” than gym-goers.
3. Get more inspired
There’s a good reason artists and creative people like to get outside to help spark their creativity: it’s inspiring.
And I don’t know about you, but I find that if I go to the same gym too often, it can get pretty dull. Looking at the same treadmills, free weights and exercise mats day after day can get pretty boring. Depressing, even.
But taking your workout outside may not only give you a much needed change of scenery, all the green space around you (or gray space, if you live in a concrete jungle) may inspire you to work harder and longer than you would have in a stuffy, lifeless gym.
Pretty cool if you ask me.
4. Improve your mood
If you’ve ever been in a bad mood and forced yourself to get outside rather than sit around indoors, you probably remember how your mood lifted and the world got just a little brighter after even just 5 to 10 minutes outside.
(This happens to me a lot.)
And taking your workout outdoors may have even greater effects—a 2008 study by researchers at Glasgow University in Scotland found that people who worked out in a green space surrounded by trees or grass were 50 percent more likely to have better mental health compared to people who didn’t exercise outside.
And not only does exercising outside improve your mood temporarily, it can also help improve your sleeping patterns, reduce stress levels, and decrease mild depression.
5. Greater enjoyment
Despite feeling ridiculous at times from all the stares you’ll get if you live in a highly populated area, when you work out outside, you’ll no doubt enjoy your workout more than if you’d done the same workout indoors.
In a number of recent studies, exercising volunteers have reported greater enjoyment when exercising outdoors as opposed to staying inside.
Blame it on the fresh air, the sunshine, or even learning to relish the curious looks you get from strangers (yes, it’s possible)—whatever the reason, you’re bound to have more fun working out when you’re outside as opposed to in.
6. More motivation
Whether it’s the open space, trees or outdoor playground that inspires you, taking your workout outside will motivate you do more burpees, to jump higher, and swing further than you would at an indoor gym.
And even if you don’t find the outdoor scenery especially motivating, you’ll definitely be motivated to work as hard as you possibly can when you notice all the people watching you to see how badass you really are.
7. Extra vitamin D
When sunshine hits your skin, a process begins that leads to the creation and activation of vitamin D. And this is a good thing for a lot of reasons.
Because not only does the vitamin D you’ll get from working out outside help fight Seasonal Defective Disorder (SAD), it also helps fight certain conditions—from osteoporosis and cancer to depression and heart attacks.
Of course, you can also take vitamin D supplements (which I recommend, depending on what part of the world you live in), but getting your vitamin D the natural way through sunshine is always best.
Now go lace up your sneakers, get outside and WORK IT!
PS. Want to look extra awesome during your outdoor workouts? Pick up a 12 Minute Athlete t-shirt or tank top today and you’ll not only look fitter and sexier, you’ll also get superhuman strength!