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The Health Benefits Of The Great Outdoors

2nd June 2023

2nd June 2023

By Catherine Hargreaves

During the winter months, it's easy to become accustomed to staying indoors due to the short daylight hours and cold weather. You may be surprised to know just how much this lack of day and sunlight has on our body – and both our physical and mental health. When summer comes around, we're more likely to reap the benefits without noticing, but even then it might take more effort than you think to get enough sun. With a whopping 63% of our recent Quiz takers saying they don't get enough time outdoors, it's certainly an issue needs addressing.

In the United Kingdom, whilst our weather isn’t always what we’d like it to be, we are lucky to have a huge amount of natural green countryside, as well as bustling cities, both providing us with exciting and enjoyable areas to take a daily stroll. So, it’s important that we really make the most of these areas and take advantage of our freedom to explore them.  With the weather on the up, we wanted to stress the importance of getting outside, and the health benefits we can gain by doing so.

Let’s start with the basics…

How is sunlight good for you?

We don’t know about you, but any time in the sun makes us feel a whole lot better about ourselves. Sunlight is a great serotonin-booster, which means that getting outside is the perfect way to instantly up your mood. Put simply, serotonin is the hormone responsible for giving you energy and keeping you happy. In the long run, the maintenance of positive serotonin levels will ensure your performance and focus levels are unaffected.

But there’s also science to back this up, too. It’s important to maintain a stable level of Vitamin D in your system, to avoid the risk of any autoimmune deficiencies and cardiovascular diseases. There’s also research to suggest that even just one hour of daily exercise has huge health benefits, particularly when it comes to your heart health. One hour a day is nothing in the grand scheme of things, and you could even break this up into smaller, more manageable regular breaks.

If you’re still not convinced, though, let’s talk about some more benefits of being outdoors…

Nature Health Benefits

Encourages Exercise

    Pretty simply, being outside, your opportunities to be sat down doing nothing are pretty limited. This means that you’re encouraged to exercise just by the sheer nature of being outside – whether that be walking, running, or even skipping if you feel like it.

    Clears Your Head

      Aside from physical benefits, one of the most underrated benefits of being outdoors is the ability to help you destress, clear your head and reduce anxiety levels. Improving your mood is a key way to improve your performance, so taking simple steps to improve your mental health by just taking a quick stroll outside, or organising a meet up in the park, is definitely recommended.

      Improves Your Sleep Quality

        Have you experienced restlessness and broken sleep recently? It could be as a result of you not spending enough time outside. By getting outdoors and spending time in the sun, your body uses up more energy than you would do sat at home at your desk or on your sofa. One of the great benefits of this (aside from increased exercise levels) is that you will experience a great night sleep!

        This means your performance and energy levels will thank you later, too.

        Increases Your Time in Nature

           With the online world at our every turn in both our work and social lives, there has never been a better time to prioritise turning off that screen, putting your phone down and getting outside for some fresh air.

           This leads us on pretty nicely to our next point…

          Widens Your Perspective

            It can be pretty hard to find that work-life balance these days, so getting outside is a great way to introduce some of nature’s health benefits to your lifestyle. Getting outside is a great way to remind yourself of the world around you and put your issues into perspective to help you find healthy coping mechanisms of the issues of day-to-day life.

            How can I spend more time outside?

            It’s okay. We get it. Life can get pretty hectic, so we know how difficult it can be to prioritise spending time outside, despite the benefits. If you’re struggling, here are some easy ways to introduce a brisk trip to the outdoors:

            • Lunchtime Walk
            • Daily Dog Walk
            • Social Outings
            • Sunrise and Sunset Strolls
            • Take Advantage of Weekends

            Summary

            Getting yourself out and about is one of the easiest (and cheapest!) forms of exercise, and one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical wellbeing. Whether it’s a five-minute stroll or a five mile run, anything you can do to get yourself outside and reaping the benefits of natural sunlight and it’s Vitamin D is definitely worth doing.

            If you want to get yourself outside and are struggling for exercise inspiration – look no further. We’ve got plenty of work out routines, fitness tips and professional advice to get you on your way.

            PS - if you’re looking for a way to up your vitamin intake and struggle to find time to get outside, our nutritionist-approved product The Recover Capsules include Vitamin D as one of it’s active ingredients, amongst a wealth of other feel-good ingredients.

            References

            • Holick, M. F. (2011). Health Benefits of Vitamin D and Sunlight: A D-bate. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 7(2), 73-75. Click here.
            • Lambert, G. W., Reid, C., Kaye, D. M., Jennings, G. L., & Esler, M. D. (2002). Effect of sunlight and season on serotonin turnover in the brain. The Lancet, 360(9348), 1840-1842. Click here.
            • Myers, J. (2003). Exercise and Cardiovascular Health. Circulation, 107(1), e2-e5. Cl

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            Strength Training 101 Webinar
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When you use external resistance like weights or resistance bands, it causes tension in your muscle fibres and microscopic tears. During the recovery phase, your body starts repairing these tears by creating new proteins and muscle fibres, which is what makes your muscles stronger. 4 Common Strength Training Myths: The buzz around strength training doesn’t come without common misconceptions and myths, and I’m sure you have heard many reasons as to why it might hinder your health or just not be of benefit to you.  1. Strength training can make women bulky This myth is  so prevalent within society but seems to be slowly decreasing. Actually, a balanced strength training program with a good diet gives you a lean and toned physique. Numerous studies have shown that genetic and hormonal differences between ourselves and our male counterparts, such as testosterone levels, make gaining large amounts of muscle a greater challenge for women. Studies have also shown that strength training in women tends to lead to an increase in lean body mass, which is associated with improved metabolism and fat loss and contributes to a toned and athletic appearance rather than bulkiness. 2. Cardio is better for fat loss Strength training actually plays a significant role in shedding fat by boosting metabolism and promoting lean muscle mass. A 2019 study by the Institute of Sports Sciences found that muscle is more active than fat -  a pound of muscle can burn anywhere from 10 to 20 calories a day, while a pound of fat burns only 2 to 5 calories a day. A 2020 study published in the Journal of Sports Science also shows that your metabolic rate is increased for up to 72 hours after strength-training exercise. This means that you’re still burning additional calories hours and even days after your workout. 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One way this occurs is through the release of hormones called endorphins which act as a natural mood enhancer and stress reliever, and are part of the reason why when you exercise you feel a little buzz. Our mood can also be improved by the feeling of accomplishment you get when you complete your strength-goals- like upping your squat by a few kg, holding a new yoga pose or just pushing yourself to do a few more reps.On top of this, a systematic review that studied 754 adults showed a significant link between strength training and positive body image, including body satisfaction, appearance, and social anxiety around how you look. 2. Cognitive benefits: A lesser known benefit of strength training is improved cognitive function and neuroprotective effects. Those who engage in strength training may have better brain health and protection against age-related cognitive decline. This is because strength training improves blood flow, reduces inflammation, and increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is basically what’s linked to memory and learning. Multiple studies have also pointed to other significant cognitive improvements after participating in strength training, like processing speed, memory, and executive function. Executive function is like the CEO of your brain—it's the boss that helps you plan, organise, manage your emotions and get stuff done. It's what makes sure you remember to grab your keys before leaving the house, helps you follow a recipe, and stick to a schedule without procrastinating or binge-watching TV. 3. Physical strength: It may seem like stating the obvious, but it’s an equally important benefit, and that’s your physical strength. As Shiv talked about earlier, as you progressively challenge your muscles with resistance, they get better at generating force by bringing in more muscle fibres after those microscopic tears. This allows you to lift heavier weights and perform more challenging exercises. This doesn't only mean the benefit is you can squat more or deadlift more, but also translates to completing more mundane tasks more easily like bringing the shopping in or climbing the stairs at work.  Strength training improves posture and reduces lower back pain by enhancing the strength and endurance of core muscles. When the muscles supporting the spine and lower back are strengthened through exercises like squats and deadlifts, they provide better support and stability. This, in turn, helps maintain a more upright posture and reduces the strain on the lower back, which alleviates that pain and improves your spine health. 4. Metabolic and chronic diseases: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), strength training has been associated with a 20-30% reduction in the risk of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and arthritis.  This is because it’s been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, so your body is able to regulate your blood sugar levels more effectively. It’s been linked to improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also improves joint function and overall mobility.  5. Better sleep: Engaging in regular physical activity, including strength training, has been shown in research to improve sleep quality and duration. That research shows that 60% of people who weight train get an average of 7 hours or more of sleep per night. The exertion during workouts, coupled with the positive impact on stress levels, promotes more restful and rejuvenating sleep.   In summary, there are numerous myths surrounding strength training and if you're ever confused about anything you hear about it, you should do some research before disregarding weight training entirely, or simply get in touch on our website for some quick advice. Beyond physical benefits, strength training has many benefits for your overall health, from improving cognitive function to reducing the risk of chronic diseases, strength training enhances overall well-being. Embrace the power of short, focused workouts and discover the joy of achieving strength goals. Strengthen your body, elevate your mood, and foster a healthier, more fulfilling life through the enduring practice of strength training. Read more
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