It's no mystery that exercise makes you healthier, but you may be improving your own well-being at the expense of the environment's. If you make your workout a greener one, though, the benefits you'll receive go far beyond better physical condition.
The results of a meta-analysis of 10 studies published in Environmental Science & Technology in 2010 showed that green exercise can be more beneficial than an indoor workout. The research, which was obtained with the help of 1,252 participants, revealed that those who exercise outdoors may see immediate improvements in their mood.
"You get a very substantial benefit from the first five minutes [of green exercise]," said Jules Pretty, one of the University of Essex researchers that conducted the studies. "We should be encouraging people in busy and stressed environments to get outside regularly, even for short bits of time."
The green exercise that Pretty and her colleague Jo Barton studied wasn't exclusive to running or walking though. The two researchers also observed the participants as they practiced recreational activities like gardening and sailing.
By replacing your gym membership with an outdoor routine, you're also cutting back on your carbon footprint. Gyms provide an atmosphere that's conducive to working out, but avoiding them will reduce your amount of energy consumption
If being indoors is more convenient or comfortable for you, make your own green gym at home. It shouldn't be too difficult to find secondhand weight sets and pull-up bars online, but that may not even be necessary. There are plenty of ways to reuse common household items as exercise equipment. Old tires can be used for core workouts, while empty milk bottles filled with sand, rocks or concrete can serve as makeshift dumbbells.