Is training outdoors better for mental health vs training in a gym?

Because of the pandemic lots of us had no choice but to train outside rather than in our usual gyms. And even though it’s not a move that many of us would have chosen, it is clear from what I have heard and experienced that training outdoors has a lot of benefits. In this blog I will be discussing the positive effect outdoor training can provide, and comparing it to training in a traditional gym setting.

In March 2020 the gyms were forced to close, leaving many people like me feeling a bit lost. In that first weekend after closure I started training my clients in my garden, but that was soon banned and we had to resort to online training only. This change took a lot of getting used to. For me, I had to be able to coach people using my voice only and be able to describe how they needed to correct themselves, without being able to properly demonstrate or touch them. Which was hard as a lot of my clients are visual learners like me, and it felt alien to both of us. But it soon became the norm and actually my clients said they felt their bodies working more than ever! This was the first learning curve for all of us, as it was clear that my clients could still get awesome results, even without gym equipment.

However, online training did not provide the face to face connection that my group of clients were used to. And it was music to our ears when the ban was lifted to be able to train outside again, first in 1-1’s and now in groups of 6. Outdoor training has all of the same benefits of online training, but with being able to see my clients in person I am able to better assess their technique and intensity and they can see me demonstrate clearly. I have clients that have actually said they would still like to continue their training sessions online, as it is easier for them being able to stay home and not need childcare etc, which makes a lot of sense. (I will be doing another blog shortly about which people online training works well for, as sometimes it has proved to be the best option!)

A comparison of training outdoors versus in the gym:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is nicknamed the sunshine vitamin, because our body creates it when we a re exposed to sunlight. A large amount of people in the UK are vitamin D deficient as we spend a lot of time indoors. Among the many benefits of vitamin D, is the positive effect it has on mental health. A study found that people who suffered from depression felt an improvement in their symptoms when supplementing with Vitamin D.  JordeM. SneveY. FigenschauJ. SvartbergK. Waterloo. You can only absorb vitamin D when you are outdoors, so training in a gym does not provide this mood enhancing benefit.

Potential for less triggers/ anxiety

A lot of people feel anxious in a traditional gym environment. This could be because they have linked the gym with negative feelings such as; being surrounded by people fitter than themselves, feeling like you are being stared at, looking stupid when you don’t know how to use equipment. These are problems that can be solved with the help of a personal trainer, or just by familiarising yourself over time. However for some people these triggers are enough to stop them coming to the gym all together, which means no more exercise. Instead, this person should train outdoors in an environment that is less busy and does not provide the same triggers. Often training outside involves more body-weight exercises or bands, so there is less risk of being overwhelmed by big machines. Once a person is comfortable with training outside they will more than likely be able to train in a gym setting without feeling uncomfortable, but for many the feeling of training outside provides a less stressful environment.

Cost

The costs associated with training such as gym memberships is cited as one of the main barriers to exercise. You should not feel like you are not able to get fit and healthy just because you cannot afford a gym membership. Training in your garden or local park provides a no obligation, cost effective solution. Also the money that is saved from not paying a gym membership could be spent on buying portable equipment that allows you to train wherever you want. Outdoor training can be done with or without equipment, and it is accessible for everyone.

There are many more benefits of training outdoors, and you can see why outdoor training promotes a positive mental health. However everyone is different. For some people they feel better training in a gym environment and they would not achieve the same level of training without it. For me I love training both outdoors and in the gym, and I do a mixture of both. For a lot of my clients they have found that they prefer training outside rather than in the gym, so that’s what they will continue with. I would say to those reading this wondering which is best… have an open mind and trial both methods for a number of weeks, and see which provides you with the best mental and physical results.

If you have any questions or feedback please contact me aliciaburkecoaching@gmail.com & http://www.aliciaburkecoaching.com

Thanks, ABC x

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