This trend is putting the 'out' in 'workout'
Experience the benefits of outdoor fitness, a growing phenomenon in the U.S.
With the rise in organized activities like mud runs, triathlons and all manner of endurance races – from ultra-marathons to 5Ks with your dog – it's clear that many fitness-minded people are thinking, literally, outside the box.
In a fitness-friendly city like Boston, for instance, it's been commonplace for decades to see droves of people running, power-walking, stretching, asana-ing and sweating their way across town, using well-marked trails and scenic parks, co-existing peacefully with tourists and commuters. What's becoming more popular, however, is seeing these people congregating outside in a group setting, led by a trainer with a whistle, as if the local high-school gym class suddenly escaped for the afternoon. And that trend is playing out in towns not just across the States, but around the world.
“It’s more challenging outside,” Boston-based trainer Simran Ahluwalia told The Boston Globe. “It’s not as boring, and you can do it with more people. It’s easily accessible and quick.”
Some fitness outfits have devoted business almost exclusively to outdoor exercise. Two brothers from London, Joel and Daniel Yekutiel, moved to Israel and opened Outdoor Fitness Israel in 2012. The company's 40 weekly classes are held year-round at various locations around Tel Aviv, from the park to the beach to the promenade to the marina. They've also developed their own app where members can book classes, learn about programs and view promotions.
"Training doesn’t have to be in a gym, plodding along on a treadmill," Orel Blackford, who developed a Tough Mudder-style, all-outdoor obstacle gym in Yorkshire, England, told the Yorkshire Evening Post. "In order to work, training has to engage.”
No matter how high-tech, high-end or high-energy the gym has become, there's something to be said for the great outdoors – enjoying the fresh air, encountering varied, diverse scenery as you move about, and just being one with your community – that has myriad benefits for your health and well-being.
What's more, experts say, anything you come across on your route – a park bench, a curb, a tree – can be used as a prop for your workout. “It’s about manipulating leverage to make your workout easier or harder," said Mark Safer, a trainer with Equinox, a fitness chain with locations across the U.S. and Canada offering indoor, outdoor and personal training classes.
These athletes, using props for their outdoor workout, give new meaning to 'getting tired.' (Photo: Tyler Olson/Shutterstock)
And with activities like yoga that focus primarily on breathing and being still, being out in the open air can be tremendously beneficial.
"A yoga studio is such a controlled environment," Eion Finn, a yoga instructor originally from Vancouver, Canada, told Women's Health. "But when you do yoga outside, you're forced to interact with all these other forces – you're honoring your interconnection with all life."
Finn even recommends losing the yoga mat for this kind of setting. "Grass is soft, forgiving and playful," he said. "It can bring a more free-spirited energy into your practice."
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