We all know doing at least 30 minutes of some form of physical activity per day is good for the body, but are you aware of the benefits that exercising outside offers? It’s kind of crazy how so many of us drive to the gym just to hop on a treadmill and walk a mile or two. Although there is nothing wrong with attending a gym, many people often forget (or are unaware) how great running outside or doing fitness classes at a local park can be. Besides the group fitness classes that I teach every week and the yoga classes that I regularly attend, I rarely step foot into a weight room or gym facility. After being raised in South Florida my entire life, I am all about exercising and enjoying the fresh outdoors. Instead of choosing to do 20 minutes on the elliptical machine and staring at a TV monitor, try jogging outside and enjoy the live scenery as a means to keep your mind engaged. The fresh air and sound of nature are additional calming and soothing benefits that can ultimately help reduce the stress that life brings on most of us. The beach in particular is a great place to work out because, aside from the aforementioned benefits, the sand and water offer its own unique challenges.
To further prove how great exercising outdoors is, I have compiled a list of the benefits of working out at the beach on the sand:
· Generate Vitamin D – Nature has so many healing benefits and the sun alone offers dozens! Although Vitamin D is found in food, it can also be made in your body after being exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun. More importantly, according to a 2007 study, individuals lacking direct sunlight increases their chances of getting cancer by up to 70%! Moderate sun exposure can help the human body synthesize adequate amounts of vitamin D, which is known to keep our bones strong and healthy, as well as support a healthy immune system.
· Increases Stability – Exercising in the sand can offer a new and challenging way to work your muscles, especially when it comes to your quads and calves! As we all know, a sandy beach provides a dynamic surface that continues to shift beneath our feet as we walk, jog, run or exercise. Due to this simple fact, your ankles, foot arches, quads and calves are forced to work harder to stabilize the body, therefore achieving a more intense workout session. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research followed 51 young men around for six weeks as they performed exercise routines on different surfaces. At the end of the test, they found that the participants who exercised in the sand experienced a significant increase in calf circumference. If you feel like your last few visits to the gym have been lackluster, you may be reaching your personal fitness plateau! In an effort to avoid this, switch it up and try working out in the sand on the beach!
· Burns more calories – Unlike working out in the cool, air conditioned gym, working out on the beach in the sand can help you burn more calories! A scientific study found that your heart beats roughly 1.1 times faster when you work out on the sand, which ultimately leads to more caloric burn. The scientific data clearly proves that working out in sand is one of the best ways to achieve a high intensity workout.
· Reduces stress on joints – Although working out in the sand is more challenging for the muscles, it actually gives your joints a break from severe impact compared to exercising on a concrete or hard surface. RunnersFeed.com cited an Australian study that proved that landing on a soft surface like sand increases the “collision” time, or “the time during which the foot sinks into the sand, and therefore reduces the overall pounding on the joints”. And you probably already guessed it — the less impact and pressure we put on our joints, the less chance we have of experiencing a physical injury!
· Enhances mental health – The scenery that nature offers appears extremely calming and appealing to the human psyche, but to show proof of it even further, the Science Daily tested this hypothesis in 2011! This review concluded that there are several benefits to working out in a natural environment. In fact, participants of the study found that individuals who exercised outdoors saw an improvement in their mental well being, compared to those who exercised indoors. The study further concluded that exercising in natural environments caused greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement.
The scientific data clearly shows that working out in sandy surfaces will enable you to get more out of your workout, both physically and mentally. With the success of my unique Sweaty Sunday Funday Beach Workout last month, I am excited for my next one! If you live in South Florida, join me and a few dozen fitness enthusiasts on Sunday, October 13th as we perform a customized hour-long circuit training course on Fort Lauderdale Beach from 10:30AM to 11:30AM EST! If you really feel like challenging your fitness level, join me for the Shark Shuffle 5K Walk/Run Event that same morning at 7:30AM and then meet me immediately after for my beach workout! To sign up or to inquire more information, email me: Info@mariapontillo.com To receive daily fitness tips, motivational support and physical therapy advice, follow me on Instagram and Twitter and “Like” my Official Facebook Fan Page!