Meet Angela Ambrose.  Angela is our latest partner contributing to our WELL Project and is a freelance writer with more than 30 years of writing experience. She is also an ACE-certified group fitness instructor and yoga teacher. When she’s not writing or teaching classes, Angela enjoys hiking, running and cooking up healthy Mediterranean-style meals for her family. Born and raised in Chicago, Angela moved to Phoenix 20 years ago and has settled comfortably into her home in the sunny Southwest. For the latest health and fitness news, visit AngelaAmbrose.com or follow Angela on Facebook (@AmbroseHealthyLiving).

Outdoor Exercise Heals the Mind and Body

With the arrival of cooler fall temperatures, you’ll have more reason to get out and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Here are a few health benefits of taking your workout outside:

 

Release more feel-good hormones.  Outdoor exercise is a natural anti-depressant. Exposure to sunlight increases the hormone serotonin, which can elevate your mood and lessen anxiety. Exercise, by itself, can lift your spirits by releasing brain chemicals called endorphins. When you combine the powerful effects of exercising with time spent outdoors, you multiply these feel-good hormones, which increases your sense of well-being and helps ward off depression.

Improve sleep. Daily exposure to sunlight naturally regulates circadian rhythms — your body’s internal clock — for a better night’s sleep. Regular exercise can further improve sleep quality by helping you get to sleep sooner and increasing deep sleep.

Increase vitamin D production. When your skin is exposed to direct sunlight, it produces vitamin D3. This vitamin stimulates the absorption of calcium, which is essential in maintaining strong bones. Vitamin D also helps fight off infections. Deficiencies in  vitamin D can increase the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and some cancers.

Burn more calories. The constantly changing outdoor environment creates more challenges and stress on the body. Wind resistance can make you burn more calories, especially when you’re running or cycling into a headwind. Walking or jogging on an uneven, changing terrain also requires more muscle engagement than a flat, uniform surface. Your body must also work harder to regulate your internal temperature when exercising outdoors in hot or cold temperatures.

Exercise longer. Running in place on a treadmill and staring at one spot on the wall breeds boredom. But when you’re outdoors, you’re more engaged and stimulated by the sights and sounds of nature around you. A 2012 University of California, San Diego, study of older adults showed that those who exercised outdoors were significantly more active — working out longer and more often than those who exercised indoors.

Save time and money – Instead of fighting rush hour traffic to get to the gym, go on an early-morning bike ride or take an after-dinner walk — with the added benefit of greeting neighbors you see along the way. Plus, save money on expensive gym memberships and gas.

The benefits of exercising and spending time outdoors are well-established, and when you combine the two, they have the potential to dramatically improve your physical and mental health by elevating your mood, strengthening your immune system, improving your sleep and increasing production of the essential vitamin D3.

Sunshine is one of the keys to these health benefits, but like exercise, moderation is important. If you will be out in the sun for extended periods, protect your skin from UV rays by using a natural chemical-free sunscreen.

WELL Challenge! Here are two simple ways to share your own stories about getting into the great outdoors. Choose the one that is easiest for you:

  1. From your Instagram account, share a picture and caption and remember to hashtag both #CAPLICOwell and #CAPLICOnation.
  1. From your smartphone, visit EnsignTherapy.com, click “WELL” at the top of the page, then click “Share Your Story” from the top of the WELL Site. There you’ll find room to share a short story and upload a picture from your phone.

We look forward to seeing your inspiring stories as a collaborator to our WELL Project.