There are multiple reasons exercising outdoors can help prevent depression during winter months, some of which you might not have considered. Whether indoors or outdoors, working out during the winter months is so important for your mood, health, and of course, your weight. If you live somewhere that is tolerable to exercise outdoors at some point during the day, I’d encourage you to do so. I know it’s so easy to workout indoors when it’s cold out, or skip it altogether, but you’ll feel like a new person if you take it outside on days that you can. Unless temps are dangerously chilly, dressing efficiently will keep you warm, especially if you’re working up a sweat like you should be! With all the reasons exercising outdoors can help prevent depression, it's almost impossible not to at least give it a shot. Check out these reasons and share any you might have with me too!
1. Vitamin D Exposure
Of all the reasons exercising outdoors can help prevent depression, Vitamin D exposure is the number one reason. It helps produce more serotonin in the body, which lifts your mood and boosts hormones in the body that prevent depression where it starts. It also increases your immune system, and Vitamin D from the sun is easier to absorb than any other source, even if the sun isn’t out. Whether it’s cloudy or sunny, you’ll still get more Vitamin D from the light outside. As a result, you can prevent depression just by spending half an hour outside.
2. Change of Scenery
Let’s be honest, while a treadmill is easy to climb up on and work out with, it’s not the best for beating boredom. One reason exercising outdoors can help prevent depression is it exposes you to a change of scenery and atmosphere. It stimulates neurons in the brain that turn on endorphins and it can even help enhance your creativity for the rest of the day. Anytime we’re exposed to new scenery in our day to day lives we stimulate these neurons, which is a great way to beat exercise boredom that leads to depression.
3. Fresh Air
There is no better feeling than fresh air sometimes, even when it’s really cold air during the winter. I find you just feel better overall if you get a little fresh air each day. Exercising outside during winter is a great way to do just that! Even if that means you do your cardio outside and then come inside to do weights, toning, yoga, etc., it’s much better than not exercising outside at all. Now, that doesn’t mean that just because it’s too cold certain days to exercise outside, you should skip it. However, it does mean you should take advantage of days when the weather is more tolerable.
4. Increased Immunity
Believe it or not, exercising outdoors actually boosts your immune system. When your immune system gets worn down, it can actually increase your likelihood of getting depression. Therefore, boosting your immune system is simple enough to do just by taking a walk or jog outside for several minutes each day.
5. Muscle Building
One other reason exercising outdoors can help prevent depression is it helps build muscles that are normally ignored through working out on the treadmill. By exercising outdoors, you are required to use several muscles in your legs by walking on pavement or other uneven surfaces. Even just the grass requires you to work muscles harder, which boosts energy and endorphins in the body. The harder your muscles work, the more your metabolism increases and the more energy you have. This naturally prevents depression without you even realizing it. I know anytime I get a great workout, I feel awesome the rest of the day. Inclines through hills outdoors are so much better than those indoors, and you can’t rely on the treadmill handles when you’re outdoors, which boosts your calorie burn even further.
6. Change of the Seasons
Another unique way that exercising outdoors prevents depression is you get to actively see the seasons change. This is something I always look forward to, and it might sound hokey, but watching fall turn to winter and winter turn to spring each year is so rejuvenating. It helps you appreciate the seasons and you’ll learn to love the change in the air in the meantime. I find this is one of the biggest mood benefits of all, especially seeing all the leaves fall off the trees, and slowly come back to life. Nature is one of our most underutilized natural anti-depressants, so get more of it, however you can.
7. Less Exposure to Toxins
Did you know staying inside too long can actually be harmful to your health? All homes have naturally occurring toxins through cleaners, lead-based paint, heating and air, and even just plastic products. While you can’t fully toxin-proof your home, you can eliminate some of your exposure each day by getting outdoors to move around a bit. Doing so can help prevent depression that can occur from stuffy, toxic air indoors that most people don’t consider.
If you exercise outdoors during winter months, you know as well as I do that it might not seem fun at first, but once you get started and are through, you’re so glad you skipped the stuffy indoor air. I always feel better when I head outdoors. What about you?