The Physiological Effects of Outdoor Fitness
Outdoor Fitness Positively Stimulates Our Autonomic Nervous System
Scientists have learned that outdoor fitness, or better yet working-out in nature, positively stimulates our autonomic nervous system (the regulation of our glands and organs. This includes both the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls “digest-and-rest” functions and also the sympathetic nervous system, which is the “fight-or-flight” stress responses. Until recently, it was not fully understood just how outdoor fitness in nature impacts the body’s mechanisms of autonomic nervous system.
A new study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology suggested that simply viewing images with scenes of nature could induce (HRV) increased heart rate, as opposed to viewing scenes of structures built by man. The term “heart rate variability” is the measured time elapses between heart beats. In other words, the heart beats does not beat in a perfect regular rhythm. There are differences in the time that elapses between heart beats. These differences are studied. While a decrease in heart rate variability indicates that the body is stressed and has an active sympathetic nervous system; an increase in heart rate variability indicates that the body is in relaxation reparative mode and has an active parasympathetic nervous system.
Mood Improvements Most Noticeable In Outdoor Fitness Participants
The scientists’ found that mood improvements were the most noticeable in volunteers who performed outdoor fitness, both vigorous and light activities, for short durations, suggesting that there is a significant health benefit from some short visits to green space.
Interestingly the most improvements generated in mood and self-esteem for all participants was with the presence of water while exercising. The greatest change in mood and self-esteem were found in younger volunteers was result of exercising in a green space but that effect diminished in older volunteers. The greatest improvements in self-esteem was found in the mentally ill, suggesting significant value in encouraging this group to undertake an exercise therapy in nature.