If you’re running for exercise, then you’re doing something right. Because whether your preferred method of putting one foot in front of the other involves verdant forests or a treadmill with a built-in TV, running is a great way to stay fit. That said, there are some compelling reasons to make your next jog an al fresco affair.
Here are nine great things about running outside, from the health benefits to the fact it’s basically free.
YOU’LL IMPROVE YOUR WELL-BEING
According to a study by the University of Exeter: “Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression, and increased energy.” Study participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction after outdoor exercise than after indoor activities.
IT BURNS MORE CALORIES
Running over undulations in the road, hopping over curbs and fighting the wind are all things that only happen outdoors. And each one requires an extra dose of effort, which translates to burning more calories over the course of a run. That’s why research suggests putting your treadmill on a 1%-incline to better simulate outdoor running.
THE SCENERY IS BETTER
Trees, parks, dogs and architecture make for more interesting viewing than the row of other runners in front of you at the gym. Besides, a University of Michigan study found that being in nature improves your memory and attention span.
YOU’LL WORK MORE MUSCLES
Running on a flat, moving treadmill doesn’t require as much effort, nor does it directly simulate nature’s changing terrain. Running on actual ground requires more hamstring and glute activation to propel your body forward, and you might be forced to deal with the occasional hill. Studies also show outdoor running increases leg strength and ankle flexibility more than treadmill running.
IT PREPARES YOU FOR RACES
Unless you’ve entered some strange treadmill race in which all participants compete like side-by-side hamsters, your next 10K or marathon is probably happening outdoors. Running outside better prepares you for race day and all the uneven surfaces, impromptu storms and temperature fluctuations that come with it.
IT’S A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLORE
New in town? On vacation? Got a couple hours to kill before an out-of-town work meeting? Those are all good reasons to go for a jog. Not only will you get some healthy exercise, but you can also explore your surroundings, learn the streets and identify which café to visit afterward for a well-deserved lunch.
Sunlight is the human body’s favorite source of vitamin D, yet according to Nutrition Research, more than 41% of Americans are deficient. This can lead to a host of health problems, from fatigue and a weakened immune system to poor bone density and depression. Run outdoors, and you’ll get more vitamin D.
YOU’LL EXERCISE LONGER
Head outside and, chances are, you’ll stay out there for awhile. That’s per a study that showed people who exercise outside tend to exercise for longer periods of time and more often than those who exercise indoors. Maybe it’s because the environment is more distracting — in a good way. Or because you can’t just hit “stop” like you can on a treadmill; you still have to run home.
YOU CAN DO IT ANYWHERE
No gym near your house or hotel? No problem. You don’t need to be a member at a fancy studio to run; you don’t even need a gym membership. You just need a pair of shoes, something to wear and nature, which makes running an economical exercise choice. Just hit the nearest trail — or road or sidewalk — and you can go for a run.