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Train outside to brighten your mood

It makes perfect sense to everyone that getting up off the couch and flooding your body with freshly oxygenated blood is GOOD for you… But did you know the benefits of training outdoors are not just physical?

For some people, the thought of setting an alarm even earlier than they already do, to get outdoors and do some exercise outside before work is HORRID! But don’t be so quick to fob off good the ol’ outdoor morning cardio…Apart from obvious health benefits, there are some incredible mental benefits too!

According to Harvard Health, “exposure to natural light”, coupled with being in close proximity to oxygen-rich trees and plants while exercising elevates your mood and emotes a sense of positivity (Harvard University 2000-2013).

There’s nothing I like better than starting the day with some morning cardio outdoors… Not only is it a great way to awaken, oxygenate, and motivate you for the day but also it means that the ‘monkey’ is off your back for the rest of the day, so to speak… If you have a loooong day planned at work and cannot fathom the idea of slogging out some cardio in the evening, getting some valuable training in before the day kicks off means it is out of the way and can also be an excellent stress-release.

Any time of the day, getting outside for some huff and puff no matter HOW brief can benefit you immensely, especially when you make a habit of it and do it routinely.

Managing and reducing anxiety, and even lessening the severity of depression symptoms have been cited as additional health benefits to a bit of huff-and-puff outside…and it doesn’t take much either. Sufferers of both of these conditions have reported that after exposure to natural light (i.e. light therapy) for just twenty minutes each day improved coping abilities. Further, the release of endorphins from physical activity coupled with quality oxygen abundantly available when exercising in a park or garden enhanced overall mood and perspective.

For the time poor outdoor training is ideal as you don’t have to go far… The local park or oval, or even your own backyard will do! I was jogging in Melbourne recently and spotted a dedicated woman doing running drills up and down her own driveway before work! Now that’s what I call making it happen.

It also suits those who are unable to commit financially to a gym membership or fork out for regular personal training sessions. Although outdoor training can be enhanced with a few fitness ‘toys’ like medicine balls, skipping rope, etc if you don’t have any of this you can still have a killer workout! Park benches, staircases, ovals, hills, and organized ‘bootcamp’ sessions organized by local gyms are just some of the different ways you can get it cranking outdoors.

Steady state cardio vs Interval Cardio

Everyone will have his or her own preference for either one or the other. Everything in moderation, and keeping things different prevents you from getting bored and not wanting to do any cardio at all!
The idea of interval training is focused around heart rate. The heart rate at REST should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute, but during exercise it must elevate for us to put our bodies into a state of maximal effort. ‘Interval’ training, as the name implies, is periods of an elevated (or very elevated!) heart rate, followed by a period of lower heart rate. Park benches, hills, and staircases make for awesome interval-training tools. Push yourself as hard as you can for at least 20-30 seconds at maximal effort, then walk or jog until you’ve caught your breath and you feel your heart rate has returned to its more normal state. And repeat, up, down, up, down!

Steady state, on the other hand, is getting the heart rate to a desired level and keeping it there for an extended period of time (30 minutes plus to be effective). While exercising at this moderate pace there is an abundance of oxygen available to supply your muscles and the body has the opportunity to turn to stored fat to use as fuel for this activity. However the ‘fat burning’ properties of steady-state finish when your workout does, whereas interval training has been shown to reap metabolism-boosting benefits for hours after you’ve finished your session!

A word on motivation…

Sometimes psychologically the idea of punishing yourself through intense intervals can be a deterrent or evoke a sense of dread or reluctance to train, and put you off altogether. Do what I do and trick your brain by telling yourself that you’re only going for a gentle twenty-minute steady-state powerwalk or jog. Once you’re up and going it’s easy to push yourself into a good session! Getting started is by far the hardest part.

So for greater mental clarity, reduced anxiety and stress and improved coping skills to tackle whatever the day may throw at you, get up off the couch and flood your body with freshly oxygenated blood from the purest source! It won’t just be your body that thanks you.