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For exercise, there may be nothing like the great outdoors

Is the gym your usual go-to place for exercise? If so, you may need a change of scenery, and one with lots of it: the great outdoors.
If you need a nudge to move your exercise outside, health experts say there's plenty of incentive to get moving.

 “Whether you’re a nature lover or fitness buff, hiking has a lot to offer,” said Clint Pakkala, NP-C, orthopedic nurse practitioner for Aspirus. “Getting out and being active gets your muscles moving in new and different ways. A 20-minute hike can reduce stress and also build stronger bones and muscles to help support healthy aging.”

 Research suggests outdoor exercise delivers health benefits that cannot be duplicated indoors. And a key one is a bigger boost in positive emotions. According to one study, outdoor workouts can lift your mood more and help you feel more energetic and revitalized than indoor ones. Another study found that as few as five minutes of outdoor exercise can improve self-esteem, especially if you're near greenery or water.

 Pakkala said moving your workout routine outdoors also lets you:

  •  Connect with nature. That's one of the best perks of outdoor exercise. Think of it this way: Where are you likely to enjoy exercise more, on a treadmill in a crowded gym or on hiking trail in a nearby park?
  • Save money. You don't need a gym membership. The outdoors belongs to all of us.

  • Potentially burn more calories. When you're jogging or biking outdoors, a strong headwind can help you burn more calories. You need to work harder to overcome the wind's resistance.

Rather than staying cooped up inside, take a brisk walk either alone to clear your mind or with a buddy to socialize. Work out your muscles on a local hill, bike on a neighborhood street or walk one lap and jog the next at a nearby school track.

 You can also treat yourself to a walk in the woods, in a meadow or along a stream at a park. See if a nearby park offers an exercise boot camp, yoga class or exercise equipment. Many parks do now.

“You can turn exercise into family time too,” Pakkala said. “Play on a playground with your child (or grandchild) or take a nature hike together. After all, everybody deserves to have fun outdoors.”

 For more health information, tune into Clint Pakkala’s podcast about a non-opioid treatment option for knee pain management. For more information about orthopedics and other services at Aspirus, call 906.337.6560 or visit https://www.aspirus.org/.