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Why Exercise Is Best Done Outside


outside-exercciseIt’s no secret that one of the essential components of a healthy lifestyle is exercise: from lowering the risk of physical disease or the need for joint replacement to improving your emotional and mental well being, exercise is critical for longevity and a higher quality of life.  Fitness is also a great mechanism for injury prevention. However, dragging yourself to the gym isn’t always appealing, and exercise that isn’t enjoyable can become exercise that isn’t done.  A new study by the University of Innsbruck in Austria has found that the best way to exercise is by heading outdoors, whether for a vigorous walk in the woods or a casual stroll near your house.

In the past, experts believed that a successful exercise regimen boiled down to two factors: intensity and duration. They figured that the secret to getting people to exercise was short, high-intensity workouts: this ensured that busy professionals weren’t strapped for time, though the intensity and effort could become off-putting. 

The new study, published in PLOS One,  believes that a workout’s emphasis should instead be on duration and enjoyment. To test this, they recruited 40 volunteers from Innsbruck to complete several prolonged workouts, completing mood and anxiety tests before and after. 

First, a guide took them around the surrounding mountains for a brisk, but not strenuous, three-hour walk.  Next, they were required to complete a similar workout on a treadmill within a gym, working out next to other participants and encouraged to converse. Finally, they spent three hours in a room at the university where they could spend time on the computer, read magazines, or chat with each other.

Analyzing the results, the scientists found that the mountain hike was the most taxing of all the activities and heart rates had risen more, although participants noted it felt less strenuous than the treadmill exercise. Happiness scores were significantly higher after the outdoor hike, although those after the treadmill walk were more elevated than just sitting and talking. 

Long walks outside may be a healthy alternative to intensive gym workouts, and the study is a reminder that even for those who can’t compete interval training, there are plenty of options to exercise and optimize your health. Consulting with an orthopedic surgeon can help you determine the best regimen.

Is joint pain impacting your ability to lead a healthy, active lifestyle? Interested in learning more about walking and exercising after joint replacement surgery? Dr. Stickney, a Kirkland orthopedic surgeon, can help advise you of the best