We know sunlight is good for us, but why do those rays of warmth make such a big difference? Why does being in nature make us feel good? And how can simply heading outside have such a big impact on health, fitness and overall wellbeing?
Keep reading for three reasons to take your workout into nature this Summer...
If your exercise happens in the morning hours, you can double your benefits by heading outside. Getting outside between 8-11am is absolutely vital in order to get the most from sunlight. Morning sunlight contains the lightwaves Ultraviolet-B (UVB), Ultraviolet-A (UV-A) and Infrared-A (IR-A), which help the body produce vitamin D, and are more effectively absorbed and used by the body than any food substance. If you’re supplementing with vitamin D, this sun exposure can make these minerals even more powerful. Even sunshine in the Winter months benefits us in this way, meaning vitamin D levels can be maintained throughout the year if we prioritise morning walks or simply standing in the garden each morning.
Waking early enough to benefit from the morning sun as cultures have done for thousands of years virtually flicks a switch on the body clock, telling it a new day has started, and encourages digestion, cognitive function, muscle function and circulation to fire up. When we go outside in the morning and absorb the sunlight, all our actions are likely to be more efficient for the rest of the day; we’ll have more energy, sleep better at night, and we’re even more likely to make healthier food choices!
There’s now an abundance of research showing that time spent in nature is one of the best things we can do for health and wellbeing. Forest bathing is something taken up by many groups in Japan, where busy lives and bustling city streets can take their toll on stress levels. Forest bathing is essentially simply walking in a place surrounded by nature, trees and plants, (without looking at your phone, snapping a selfie or plugging your headphones in)….
Getting out into nature has been shown to powerfully reduce stress levels, enhance the secretion of endorphins (happy hormones), thereby reducing inflammation, enhancing mood levels, and reducing muscular tension. This has a knock-on effect to every part of the body and mind, raising all-round health and wellbeing levels, and even enhancing longevity.
Chemical cleaning products, other people’s sweat, and a certain smell indicating someone definitely forgot to put deodorant on this morning….. if these things are all too familiar to you, head outside for your next workout and notice the difference when you’re breathing in fresh air instead. Just as we might think carefully about the foods we eat, it’s important to consider the quality of air we breathe too. Try working out somewhere away from roads and traffic, and if your favoured place to exercise is in your own home, bring the outside in by getting yourself some air-purifying plants like Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, the Spider Plant, Peace Lily or Boston Fern.