Paid Content

The Unexpected Benefits Of Exercising Outdoors

Five reasons to start an al fresco fitness regime
Promotional feature from Voltarol
What's this?

This content was paid for by an advertiser. It was produced by our commercial team and did not involve HuffPost editorial staff.

Geber86 via Getty Images

When the sun is shining, heading to the gym or a windowless sports hall can seem like a waste of a beautiful day. But workout sessions and time in the sunshine don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

“Whether you’re city bound or navigating the hills of the countryside, there’s something really liberating about throwing your trainers on and heading out for a run over fresh terrain,” says personal trainer Sam Eastwood.

And we shouldn’t let the unpredictable British summer weather put us off, she adds: “Our changeable weather can be a real bonus; it’s wonderful running through the park in the sunshine but super invigorating when it’s teeming down with rain, too.”

But there’s more to outdoor exercise than exhilaration and liberation. Compared to indoor training, working out in your local green space could offer a number of added benefits, according to research. Just don’t forget your sunscreen.

franckreporter via Getty Images

It burns calories faster

The wind acts as natural resistance when you run or cycle outside so you are forced to work harder. Research by physiologist Professor Andrew Jones found treadmill runners expended less energy to cover the same distance as those running outside. His study suggested that to replicate outdoor running, treadmill runners would need to adjust their machine incline to 1%. But trail and park running, with its undulating terrain and – in the case of some parks - steps, offers natural resistance and interval training without the hassle of messing with machine settings.

It boosts self-esteem

In addition to reducing stress and other negative emotions, exercising outdoors has been linked to increasing self-esteem. A study by the University of Essex found that exercise alone significantly reduced blood pressure, increased self-esteem, and had a positive, significant effect on four of six mood measures. But viewing both rural and urban pleasant scenes during exercise produced a significantly greater positive effect on self-esteem than the exercise-only control. Viewing unpleasant urban scenes whilst exercising had the worst outcome, prompting the researchers to conclude that ‘green exercise’ has important public and environmental health consequences.

sitriel via Getty Images

It’s good for motivation

If you want to find a fitness regime that will get you motivated and keep you feeling that way, working out in the fresh air could be the key. Participants in the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry review also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and declared a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date.

It’s a free gym

Taking your cardio session outdoors is easy: swap the treadmill and exercise bike for outdoor running and cycling. But what about weights and resistance training? According to Jamie Wykes-Hobday, founder of social fitness app, FitFCK, it’s possible to do that part outdoors, too. It just takes a bit more imagination.

“outdoor workouts can be extremely beneficial and using just your body weight, you can target your upper (body), lower (body) and abs just as efficiently as you could in a gym.Outdoor workouts can be extremely beneficial and, using just your bodyweight, you can target your upper (body), lower (body) and abs just as efficiently as you could in a gym,” he says.

Squats, lunges, press-ups and crunches can all be done outdoors. Make the most of what’s available in your local park, such as trees and benches. Or you could always cheat by going to one of the growing number of parks that have their own outdoor gym area.

Jacob Ammentorp Lund via Getty Images

Although there are many benefits to exercising outdoors, it does present a unique set of hazards when it comes to sporting injuries; loose stones, fallen branches and slippery leaves or moss are just three of the things you might encounter on a typical park trail run.

Voltarol Pain-Eze Emulgel can help to manage your pain. It provides up to three times more effective pain relief than non-medicated gel, offering a triple effect, which helps relieve pain at the source, reduces inflammation and helps speed up recovery. Be patient and you’ll be back on track before you know it.

Voltarol Pain-Eze Emulgel contains diclofenac diethylammonium for relief of pain and inflammation. Always read the label. ©2017 GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare.