The easy way to exercise more

Is your gym membership gathering dust? Try adding a dose of green to your workouts: People who exercise outdoors at least some of the time are more active than those who always work out inside according to a new study in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health.

The researchers analyzed the exercise habits of 11,649 people and found that those who incorporated some outdoor workouts into their routine logged more than twice as much exercise as those who stuck to only outdoor workouts.

That seemed to translate to better mental health: Doing a combination of indoor and outdoor workouts protected against tension, stress, and poor emotional health among women. Specifically, the ladies who broke up the monotony of gym time with outside exercise were 28 percent less likely to report a poor emotional state (e.g., feeling depressed) than those who only worked out indoors.

The researchers aren’t certain why a run through the park gives your brain a boost but speculate that nature activates your parasympathetic nervous system (which helps you relax) and that the light exposure boosts your levels of vitamin D (which has been linked to mood).

Another theory: Spending time outside restores your “directed attention”—the mental reserve required to weed out distractions during stressful tasks—so you feel more refreshed after outdoor exercise. (Hint: Take a jog outside during your lunch break. Your boss will thank you!)

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