The 2008 American Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that every adult get 2 and 1/2 hours of moderate intensity cardio every week plus 2 or more strength training sessions every week. Choosing where one gets that cardio – inside or outside – deserves some consideration.
I love the outdoors. Smelling the fresh air, listening to the birds calling out to each other, and taking in the beautiful scenery. And when I exercise outside, I appreciate that I’m alleviating boredom by constantly changing my location. Studies have shown that just spending 20 minutes outside can rev you up as much as a cup of coffee. Also, being outside is free – generally – unless you add in a good bike for bike riding, quality sneakers for running, or the cost of renting a kayak or a canoe.
While outdoor exercise has many positive attributes, there are also some negative aspects. If the weather is too hot, you can get sick. Rain and wind can interrupt plans and impede the quality of my workout. And I always have to remember my sunscreen – regardless of the cloud cover – because nobody wants a farmer’s tan. Plus, if I have to plan my exercise around work, there’s the risk that it could get too late dark and I’d have to navigate in the dark.
At least with inside exercising, I always have the benefit of air-conditioning. And there’s always water on hand to prevent me from dehydrating. While running outside can be more exciting than jumping on the treadmill, the treadmill is much easier on my knees and other joints.
Thankfully, some gyms do offer some of their classes outside so you get the benefits of both indoor and outdoor training. But I’ve learned that the key is during the nicer weather, to mix it up! Take a walk outside during your lunch break. Look up at the sun, soak in all that Vitamin D we’re all usually so depleted in. Breathe in the fresh air. But for serious exercising – the moderate intensity cardio and strength training sessions the APAG recommends – the benefits of the indoors can far outweigh those of being outside.