What are the health benefits of exercising outside in the West Midlands?
Updated: May 1, 2019
When you think of the west midlands does the image that springs to mind consist of industry in sprawling urban areas? I remember many a summer holiday sat in traffic on spaghetti junction of the M6 overlooking the seemingly grey and smoggy landscape of Birmingham. But for those of us that live in the west midlands we know the hidden secrets and to how much beauty and nature is out there. There is such variation in the landscape it is so much more than urban
The canal network that runs the breadth of the region
The woodland and farmland of the Warwickshire villages.
The steep hills surrounding the Black Country
The wetland of Kingsbury
When I visit a person’s home I tell them I need the space of a yoga mat to provide personal training. I have trained people in third floor flats, kitchens and living rooms. Yet time and time again if I ask my client “where would you like to meet for training”. The answer is usually “out in the garden/ park”
Now you may think this is to do with being house-proud or wanting to enjoy the British summer that we seem to actually be having this year. But frequently I am told “I never get a chance to go outside, I go from my house to my car to my desk” my clients that train outside often are able to find motivation and strength that they didn’t know they had and subjectively it seems as if they are able to push the boundaries of their achievements when outside.
So why is moving outside good for us?
Trees produce phytoncides which have an antimicrobial effect on our bodies, boosting the immune system and reducing our stress response.
Regardless of socioeconomic factors the higher the density of trees in an area the more likely the residents are to report good mental health and less cardio metabolic conditions
Compared to exercise indoors, being in green spaces has the following benefits:
We do more and it feels easier! My perception that clients work harder was right! Exercising outdoors increases our performance but the perceived effort decreases
Outdoor activity can increase opportunities to socialise reducing loneliness
We are more likely to want to do the activity again
We experience enjoyment
Improved self esteem
Get vitamin D
Lower blood pressure
Better eyesight! (well at least in children)
Decreased cortisol (the stress hormone)
We are most likely to experience awe in nature. Awe influences our decisions and sense of time passing.
More likely to be generous to others
With all these health benefits why don’t we always utilse it?
83% of the UK population live in urban areas. It can be easy to fall into the house-car-work routine so if this is you take a moment to think about how you can get outdoors. Can you allocate 5 minutes on your lunch break to go for a walk. Can you sit under a tree when you are having your morning brew? Can you join an outdoor activity or class.
I regularly organise walks and hikes. If you want to find out when my next one is then contact me. The walk will be anxiety safe so if there is anything I can do to make it more accessible then drop me an email.
Sarah is an Occupational Therapist and personal trainer in Solihull who is passionate about helping people flourish @MoodLifterPT