By Bridgette Ruge Barlow, MA CPT RHC
One of the top tips I give to my clients who are stressed, fatigued, depressed, or anxious is to GET OUTSIDE. It’s simple, it’s free, and it’s enormously effective at healing the mind and the body, while simultaneously lifting the mood. It also helps to regulate or body’s circadian rhythms and melatonin production, helping us to get more restful sleep! Sunshine is good medicine!
Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your outdoor workout, while staying safe and reaping all of the benefits.
Boost metabolism and decrease risk of cancer and dementia with vitamin D
Did you know that without enough Vitamin D, your thyroid can’t work properly? Proper thyroid function is essential for a healthy metabolism. Additionally, adequate amounts of Vitamin D are protective of all cancers and dementia. How’s that for benefits?Fortunately, wearing as little clothing as possible allows the body to absorb more vitamin D since the most absorbable areas are the ones usually covered by clothes. However, we must avoid burns as skin cancer risk increases each time we get a sunburn. A safe amount of sun exposure without protection is 10-15 minutes. This allows great vitamin D absorption but not enough to burn. After this time, wear an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply every hour.
Use nature’s terrain as your “exercise equipment”
Nature is your FREE GYM! No memberships required! Use low ledges, benches, and stairs to do step ups and push-ups. Take advantage of the challenge of uneven or hilly terrain. Even small hills can boost the heart rate and calorie burns significantly on a walk, run or bike ride. Walking on a treadmill is boring and offers little variation in heart rate. You’ll burn more in less time by taking your workout outside.
Fight cancer with increased oxygen uptake
Breathe deeply and enjoy cleaner air and increased oxygen. Did you know that the air can be more polluted inside than outside? This is especially true if you have access to an area with a lot of plants and trees which help filter the air that we breath. Oxygen deprivation to the cells of the body are highly correlated with the development of cancers. NOTE—if exercising in a big city with high levels of pollution, you may not be getting these positive benefits. Best to take your workout to a park or trail where you will be surrounded by plants and trees.
Fight off depression, stress, anxiety, and low mood
Sunlight releases serotonin in the brain, one of the major hormones that fights depression. There is a strong association between those who don’t get enough sunlight and rates of depression. The combination of sunlight and exercise can even mimic or exceed the benefits of anti-depressant drugs. That being said, if you are struggling with depression, you should speak with your doctor and come up with a plan that’s right for you.