Wake up! It's time to take your exercise regimen outdoors

  • Kavita Devgan, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Nov 18, 2014 14:42 IST

Winter is coming. And while that might not sound as ominous as it does in Game of Thrones (the popular TV show), the image is still of the chilly outdoors. Thankfully, winter in Mumbai just means really pleasant temperatures. It's also the best time to exercise outdoors.

"The benefits of exercising in the open are greater than working out inside a room," says Dr Saurabh Jain, consultant physician, Cumballa Hill Hospital And Heart Institute. Here are a few reasons to head out.

Jogging outdoor beats running on a treadmill
A recent study in the journal, Environmental Science And Technology, says that participating in physical activity outside has a better effect on physical and mental well-being than physical activity indoors. And, an analysis of both outdoor and treadmill running published in the Journal of Biomechanics says that people flex their ankles more when they run outside, which stresses muscles differently.

"Similarly, when you cycle outdoors, the wind drag can result in greater energy demands as compared to covering the same distance on a stationary bike," says Dr Jain.

The green effect
A study conducted in Japan shows that walking in natural surroundings lowers the stress hormone, cortisol. Another study published last year found that walking through green spaces can put the brain into a meditative state. "There cannot be such a benefit when you hit the cross-trainer in a gym. So, walking in the open should be preferred," says Dr Jain.

Gym air bad for you?
In a recent study, researchers from Portugal and Holland measured the levels of commonly found indoor pollutants in gyms all across Lisbon, and found that these spaces showed high levels of airborne dust, formaldehyde and carbon dioxide, especially during evening aerobics classes, when many people were packed in small studios. They warn that these pollutants can lead to asthma and other respiratory problems in the long run, and high levels of carbon dioxide may even contribute to bodily fatigue and cognitive fogginess. The study mentions that since people breathe heavier while exercising in a gym, the pollutants go into the lungs.

The D factor
Vitamin D is essential for the body, and not spending enough time in the sun may hamper the absorption of the vitamin. It is responsible for neuronal growth and has a positive effect on our mood. That is the reason why you feel happier when you go for a walk in a park instead of running on a treadmill in your home.

"Decreased outdoor activity is one big reason that makes most people deficient in vitamin D," says Dr Hitesh Kubadia, orthopaedic and joint replacement surgeon, Nova Specialty Hospitals.

"Also, by exercising outside, you do your bones a favour as vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium in the body, which helps in strengthening the bones," he adds.

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