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Outdoor workouts motivate better than indoor workouts

If you think you should start training but you're not sure whether you'll manage to keep it up, if at all possible go and train outdoors. Go for a run through the fields or train with your dumbbells in the garden. Workouts done outdoors motivate more than workouts done indoors, say researchers at the University of Sherbrooke in Canada in an article in Menopause. They did a 12-week long experiment with 23 post-menopausal women.

The researchers divided their subjects into two groups and got both groups to train for one hour three times a week. The programme consisted of cardio and weight training. One group trained in a gym [Indoor] and the other in the open air, in park-like surroundings [Outdoor].

The women who trained outside missed fewer workouts than the women who trained indoors, and attended 97 percent of the training sessions. The attendance rate for the Indoor group was 91 percent.

After a few weeks the women who trained inside were less enthusiastic about doing exercise. As social-psychologists put it, their positive engagement declined. The positive engagement of the women who trained outdoors did not decrease.

Outdoor workouts motivate better than indoor workouts

Training also creates inner peace [Tranquility]. This effect increased in the women who trained outdoors, but decreased in the other group.

Lack of exercise is about as unhealthy as smoking. So exercise programmes where possible should lead to an increase in the amount of physical exercise in people's daily lives.

The researchers measured the amount of daily exercise their subjects took using the Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly questionnaire. The more points you score, the more exercise you get. The figure below shows that the women who trained outdoors scored higher than the women in the Indoor group.

Outdoor workouts motivate better than indoor workouts

"This study has provided the first evidence that exercise training conducted in a natural environment leads to a higher adherence rate in postmenopausal women compared with the same program conducted indoors", the researchers summarized. "Moreover, outdoor training fosters increased physical activity level [...] and enhances both affective valence and tranquility, besides maintaining positive engagement to a greater extent than indoor training."

"Because the current results support that physical activities performed outdoors provide cumulative benefits for well-being in women, green exercise programs should be further promoted, given their substantial positive impact on affective experience and their potential impact on the promotion of an active lifestyle."

Menopause. 2015 Jul;22(7):731-40.

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