People who exercised in nature received more benefit than those who didn’t according to studies shared in Richard Louv’s book, The Nature Principle.  Louv found a study that compared 2 groups of walkers, those who walked in a natural setting and those who walked in a mall.  Findings from this study show that those who walked in woodlands, nears lakes, etc., found greater improvements in self-esteem and mood, including less depression.  Improvements are shown to both mental as well as physical health.  And finally, healthcare providers are starting to realize these benefits.  As a fitness/wellness practitioner, I am glad that more people are exercising their physical body, but by adding the mind connection piece there is potential for enhancement of the whole being, our total wellness.  I love that the whole system is addressed!   Doing this in nature seems to be the natural way of approaching it.  Nature naturally enhances the physical body and the mind.  Is that redundant?

Path thru Aspen

Outdoors fitness provides greater benefit well beyond just training the muscles and the cardiovascular systems.  When we move outdoors we have to respond differently, often unexpectedly, using our body differently than exercising indoors, and in many different ways.  The terrain is varied, the texture, slope, elements all play part in changing the playing field (pun intended).  We can strengthen muscles, increase joint flexibility, increase stamina, balance and coordination more so because we aren’t just working in the sagittal plane (front to back, the typical way we walk).  Exercising in nature keeps us changing how our body’s respond.  We have to keep paying attention, keep adapting.  This is good!  In addition, our senses become more acute, and our intellect and mental health are strengthened as well.

Some people I know from my youth, from my rural hometown, would laugh at the need for formal exercise at all!  We were raised to have exercise be a by-product of what we did anyway (hauling and chopping wood, moving earth/gardening, road or creek work).  We got exercise, but we also got done needed chores as well.  Bonus!

I have found as I’ve gotten older, it isn’t about trying to bag another peak or pack in as many miles as possible in a day.  This isn’t the experience I seek while in nature. Green exercise is what I plan to promote and will support others adding into their program, occasionally getting away from the stale, mechanical 4-walled space often thought of as ‘the place’ to get exercise.  Green exercise goes well beyond the physical, as restoration happens in the soul and in the mind.  There is a mind/body/nature connection, allowing for a deeper connection then can be found in any man-made structure.  How would you like to experience exercise outdoors?