Monday, April 07, 2014


The benefits of adding the “out” to your workout

As we emerge squinting and stumbling from our hibernatory caves, we get our first taste of delicious sunshine and smile. Spring is here — and not a moment too soon. We’ve officially made it through a very tough winter.

At this time of year, we are naturally drawn to the outdoors, and with good reason. Not only do we want to drink in all of that warmth and blue sky we’ve been missing, but mankind has an innate physiological need to connect with nature.

While I’m sure that most of you can appreciate how good you feel after spending time outside, you may be unaware that studies are beginning to show just how important nature is to our health. Research has demonstrated that regularly spending time outdoors can reduce stress hormone levels and release endorphins. It can enhance our immune systems and balance our moods. Amazingly, recent studies have shown that it can even boost our ability to fight cancer.

And those are just the benefits of being outside, even if it’s just to sit quietly in the grass and listen to the sound of chirping birds and swaying tree branches. Exercise itself boasts many of the same advantages as quiet time in nature, so just imagine how the bonuses multiply when you exercise outside. Cha-ching!

What’s more, researchers have observed that people who exercise outdoors perceive their level of exertion as lower and their sense of enjoyment higher than those exercising at the same intensity indoors. Imagine that. You’re working out harder (and reaping all the rewards of a more intense workout) without even feeling it, all while having more fun. Cha-ching! Cha-ching!

Yep, this one’s a no-brainer. So in the spirit of spring, re-introduce yourself to Mother Nature. She’s missed you.

Jennifer Fetterley is a registered dietitian for the Backus Health System and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Fetterley or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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