There’s no doubt that the recent warm weather this week has persuaded many people to spend extra time outside. Whether taking the long walk home from class to enjoy the autumn scenery, opting to study on Old Main lawn, or eating on a bench outside instead of in a cafeteria, everyone wants to enjoy the last few days of warm weather before winter arrives.
I was heading over to the gym this afternoon before I stopped and decided to run outdoors instead of on a treadmill inside. During my run, I was curious too see if there were any advantages or disadvantages to either exercising inside or outside.
According to this scholarly journal, being outside contributes to one’s sense of vitality, or, in other words, makes them feel more energetic and lively. The journal describes two studies in which students reported feeling more vital after experiencing outdoor conditions. In one experiment, individuals were randomly assigned groups, where they would take a 15-minute walk either inside or outside each day. Results from this trial reported that students who walked outside felt more energetic and positive.
Although this study shows individuals prefer exercising outside rather than inside, it is not a double bind control trial, only a randomized trial. This lessens the validity of the test, because subjects in the test could approach the experiment with bias, and report that they felt more refreshed after running outside simply because they think they should feel more refreshed when they run outside. We learned that this is also know as the Hawthorne Effect, an effect where subjects alter their behavior because they know they are being watched and recorded.
Nonetheless, there are still quite a few studies that show being outside makes people feel happier than being inside. Because of the variety of studies and the amount of studies on this particular subject, one can still conclude that the results of the experiments are accurate, since all of the experiments record that individuals do enjoy being outside more.
For example, in a separate study, students were shown two sets of pictures – a set of nature photos and a set displaying buildings. The results show that the vitality of students who viewed the nature pictures increased, while the vitality of those who viewed the building photos actually went down.
A more particular study tested the differences in 833 adults when exercising indoors compared to outdoors. This study stated that individuals who exercised outside reported feeling more optimistic, refreshed, and energetic, and less depressed, grumpy, and tense. The individuals who completed the study also claimed they were more likely to exercise outside again at a later time.
Yet another study found that running outside was more beneficial, because a runner will exert more energy while running outside because of the air resistance. Since running outside provides the runner with realistic conditions, including changing gradients and weather conditions, one can conclude that running outside will provide the exerciser with a better workout. To compensate for the different conditions found in nature vs in the gym, the study suggests to increase the treadmill grade to 1%.
So, thus far, I’ve concluded that simply being outside usually puts people in better moods, and working out outside is actually more beneficial. However, I know personally that I prefer to run inside in the winter, because the cold weather hurts my throat when I’m breathing heavy while I run.
Although there is not much scientific evidence for the other side of the argument, working out inside can be beneficial because gyms can sometimes offer a greater variety of workouts. They have machines that can focus on muscles that are hard to work out on your own, and can provide extra motivation since other people are surrounding you. Plus, the environment might be more comfortable, since some gyms are air conditioned and the environmental conditions will not affect you.
In conclusion, it is suggested (although, as we learned in class, we can’t always be 100% convinced) that exercising – or just being – outside is better for you. You respond more positively to the environment (and as we learned in my psychology class, positive thinking can allow you to achieve your goals more often than negative thinking) and you accomplish a better workout because you exert more energy when you’re outside.
Nonetheless, you should choose what you feel most comfortable with and what you think works best for you. As long as you’re happy when you’re working out, you will feel better afterwards!