There’s something about this time of year – the calendar ticks over, Spring is here. Winter is out, and the end of dreary, dark, drizzly days isn’t too far away. That means it’s time to transition off the treadmill and get outside.
But reality can be just a bit off-putting. Evenings are still short, mornings a tad nippy, the grass is soggy underfoot, while pavements are marred with puddles.
So is there really any need to take that workout outdoors?
Yes, in fact, there is!
If you’re struggling to find motivation to get outdoors, read on…
Metabolism and calorie burning
Normally, our metabolism drops off in winter so our bodies can store excess fat for warmth. Ideal in caveman days, now…. not so much!
We can decrease this seasonal slowdown by running/walking in the cold.
In the cold, when there are demands on the body through exercise, it has to work way harder to regulate its core temperature. The heart also gets stronger as its efforts to circulate blood are higher. Our metabolism can be ‘tricked’ out of entering hibernation mode.
Mood and mental health
Maintaining motivation and effort during a monotonous treadmill run can be tough, while the varied landscapes and distractions of outdoor running can help eat up the miles.
Many people say exercising outdoors helps keep their mood and energy levels up. A few years back, a study (1) by the University of Exeter proved that.
It found “compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy.”
Participants reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and declared a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date.
Pretty convincing stuff…
If that’s not enough to sway you outside of the warm gym walls, incidental exposure to Vitamin D (2) when training outdoors is another great benefit for bones, teeth, cell regeneration and lowering risk of cancer and inflammation.
A superior workout
A few factors come into play when looking at gains of running outdoors vs on treadmills.
Evidence from a Singaporean study (3) shows that peoples’ perception of their running speed on a treadmill is significantly altered. Participants in the study consistently ran at a much faster speed outdoors, even though they thought they matched that speed on the treadmill.
Air/wind resistance is also increased outdoors. To overcome it uses more energy and results in a more challenging workout (although studies have proved running at a 1% incline on the treadmill can match this).
Some research suggests that on a treadmill the belt propulsion helps to finish the runner’s stride cycle, meaning hamstrings fire less and don’t receive the same workout.
Finally, different terrain and obstacles encountered when running or walking outdoors means the body’s proprioceptive system also gets a workout. Balance and co-ordination is challenged more, which can result in better ligament strength and reactions.
If you’ve spent the winter months treadmill-training indoors, and are ready to venture back outside, allow for a gradual transition to avoid injury. Use your smarts and don’t train outdoors in dark or dangerous conditions. Start with alternate-day, short runs outdoors and build up as you feel comfortable.
Come and visit us in-store at The Athlete’s Foot for more advice about footwear that meets your indoor/outdoor running and walking needs.