Reaping the benefits of outdoor training from the comfort of your own gym.
We know that exercise has a positive effect on physical and mental health. Similarly, just being outdoors is good for our health and wellbeing. So it won’t come as a surprise that the positive effect of both the outdoors and exercise is cumulative i.e. exercising outdoors is the bees knees. But what if you live in an urban environment where exercising outdoors is not always possible. What if the general confines of the big smoke do not allow for regular jogs in the park, never mind the lakeside walks? Can you reap the benefits of being outdoors while actually working out in the gym? Yes you can!
It appears that being exposed to visual images of the outdoors effects how you respond to exercise when training indoors. The more pleasant the images the more you get out of your training.
One study by J Pretty et al (1) published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research has shown that being exposed to different outdoor images during indoor exercise can change the mood and self-esteem of participants. The scenes projected in front of the joggers varied: unpleasant rural, unpleasant urban, pleasant urban and pleasant rural. The beneficial impact of exercise on measures of mood in these individuals increased as the images became more pleasant. Interesting to note that unpleasant/depressing rural scenes had a greater negative effect than similarly depressing urban scenes.
What about actually exercising outdoors?
J Barton and J Petty conducted a meta-analysis into the dose response relationship between mood and green exercise.(3) Training outdoors, termed as “green exercise”, shows both short and long term improvements in both mood and self esteem. This is especially true in the presence of water in the environment. Most of the positive effects are observed during the shorter exposure to nature meaning that even a little goes a long way. Interestingly, mentally ill individuals had the most benefit from exercising outdoors. This can make “green exercise” an effective alternative to more conventional treatments.
Gyms of the future.
So far the evidence shows that being exposed to images of nature while exercising indoors is better for your health and wellbeing when exercising indoors. As more evidence compiles in favour of green environment, it is easy to envisage the future of urban fitness in gyms with treadmills, stationary bikes and mats spread out among green pastures, trees and waterfalls. Given what we know so far this is something every gyms can benefit from even today. Why wait?
In the meantime, those of us confined to the fortresses of our gyms should consider ways of focusing on pleasant and green imagery. It may be a while before the urban gyms begin to change their layout in order to bring nature to you. Until then, whipping out your tablet and viewing the pictures from your last trip outdoors or inspiration for the next, while jogging could be just as good as the real thing……
With healthy wishes,
From all of us here at Epoch Fitness.