There are few things more important to me, from a holistic health perspective, than getting outdoors. The only factor that I think changes how I function as a human being greater than this is perhaps the fuel I provide my body. Unfortunately, it seems that the older I become, the more time I am spending inside, whether it be for work, family/social time or working out.
I might hit a nerve with the fitness enthusiasts amongst you with this comment, but here it goes anyway… gyms don’t really work for me.
It’s not that gyms can’t provide me with benefits and results, but unfortunately I have (even as a very active person) fallen into the trap of being someone who pays for their ever-so-convenient 24hr accessible gym membership pass and uses it all of about ohhhhh… never.
Now don’t get me wrong - gyms have a lot on offer for your average Joe and your gym-junkie alike. Resistance training, professional advice, access to equipment, variety, classes, pumping tunes, working out with friends... gyms can be awesome! For those of you who have the discipline to follow a program from start to finish (and then start another… is that what you do? I have never finished one before), the gym can easily become your best fitness friend.
But for me, the gym has become similar to that guy who turns up to Friday night drinks with no wallet and every intention of having a big night - a begrudging waste of my money!
Instead, I choose to take my exercise outdoors. And man do I have fun.
We all know exercising has a long, documented list of both physical and mental benefits. But exercising outdoors? Well, it has even more!
Human beings' innate connection with nature is a concept known as biophilia. Basically a fancy word that means we are driven towards natural elements - vegetation, landscapes, animals, the sun - as it elevates our mood and helps balances our hormones.
Connecting with nature is extremely important for our mental health. Being immersed in our natural environment has a grounding effect for our wandering brains that is a much needed break from the stress and vigour of city life. Personally, I find that as I walk, climb, swim, ride or any other type of movement ‘out-to’ the external environment, my mind slowly drifts into focusing on what I am doing, my surroundings, and the sensations present in my body. As the yogi’s among us would put it… I am ‘being present’. There is no shortage of research to the benefits in taking a break from the problems we dwell on as part of our daily life and it is constantly published that we come up with our best solutions, find our best state of selves, and radiate most positively to others when we are in a good state of mind.
Now when we talk about getting outdoors, this doesn’t necessarily mean to mountain tops, or to beautiful beaches, or lush green forests like the attention grabbing photo above (which is me BTW!), although all of those types of places are great… but simply getting outside the bounds of four walls.
Breathing fresh air, feeling the sun on my skin and being on a physical journey to achieve a path of movement fills me with great joy. There is the accomplishment of achieving the journey, as well as watching it progress over time should it be regular tracked activity. Physically you are also feeling the raw elements, over that air-conditioned slightly stale atmosphere of the gym.
Sure, being exposed to the elements carries certain risks, and if it’s raining heavily your enlightening journey outside may be dampened or even cancelled (!)… but one can get a lot of enjoyment out of watching the surrounding environment always having an element of difference. That can be weather patterns, topographical changes, different species of flora and fauna, or even other human activity (for better or for worse!).
Sometime this can be actually be a godsend - if you are really exerting yourself and need something to take your mind off the pain… thoughts of ‘push all the way to the next row of trees’, or ‘how gloriously warm this sun is on my skin, or ‘god-damn this head-wind is making things twice as hard today’ are all welcomed distractions from a tough workout.
As I disengage from the daily grind that the seemingly mundane life tasks can become, being outside is a great escape for the time I am actively out there and almost always, I am able to return to those tasks with a fresh perspective and re-energised willingness to persist. Whether it's the mental break and stimulation from the outdoors itself, or the joy in getting outside for the physical component doesn’t particularly matter… If it’s a far easier way to get active and in a better headspace, I strongly believe that this is winning the battle so many of us fight in achieving health goals. As is commonly quoted in many self-help guides to any facet of life, the biggest battle is making the decision and commitment to taking that first step.
Being captivated by your surroundings and escaping the confinements in which so much of our life is spent, allows one to briefly get back in touch with some sort of nature, and for me it is a very powerful tool. Whenever I am weighed down by something, stuck in a funk or simply want to appreciate what we often take for granted here in Australia… I make the trip outdoors to reset, and more me it works wonders Perhaps you should give it a go too.
- Written by DadBod Jeavo, your resident outdoor enthusiast.