I always joke that I need my workouts to help me distress. It always seems that “mean mommy” makes an appearance on the days when there isn’t time for a run. I had previously chalked this up to the endorphins from exercise, the power of a good sweat and the boost I get from listening to my favorite music. I may have missed that where I do my workout is just as important as whether or not I do it. I marvel at Central Park when I’m running.  When I look around it seems incredible to have such beauty in the middle of a city.  I snapped the photo above during my run today.  Thinking about this post, I focused more on the scenery and less on my speed.
A study conducted in the UK compared a group walking in a shopping mall to another group walking in the park.  After walking in the park 90% of participants claimed increased self esteem, 88% improved mood and 71% felt less tense, these numbers were under 50% in all criteria for the mall walkers. Other research showed people slides depicting scenes from nature and mood was significantly improved.
Here are some of explanations given as to how outside time is beneficial:
Natural and social connections: watching wildlife, evoking good memories, spiritual feelings
Sensory stimulation: colors and sounds, fresh air, enjoyment, escape from pollution, contrasts with urban life, being exposed to the weather
Activity: using manual skills, physically challenging activities such as digging or cycling
Escape from modern life: time to think and reflect, clear the head, get away from pressures and stress.
In terms of exercise, a 1994 study out of the University of Utah compared the 5K times of runners on treadmills, an indoor track and outside. The fastest times were recorded outdoors, the slowest on the treadmill. Runners on the treadmill perceived their workout to be more strenuous than those who ran at the same intensity outside. In fact running outdoors scored higher than the treadmill in the areas of positive engagement, revitalization, tranquility, course satisfaction and lower in the time to exhaustion.
Again, I have to emphasize that while exercising outdoors can be a major mood booster, as little as 5-10 minutes spent outside, even stationary, can make a difference to your stress level and your outlook. Those 10 minutes a day may keep mean mommy (or mean daddy or mean coworker) away.
How will you spend time outside today? Perhaps snap a photo and send it my way. Do you feel being outside is beneficial/believe in “ecotherapy”?

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