If you’re reading this, you already know that daily exercise is a big part of getting healthy and staying that way. Workouts eliminate stress, boost energy levels and metabolism, promote good sleep, improve heart health, and lower the chances of certain diseases. As beneficial as exercise is, you can get even more out of your fitness regimen if you move it outdoors. Here are the top five reasons you should exercise outside, instead of hitting the gym.

Fresh, clean air. 

Every cell in your body needs a steady supply of oxygen; without it, you’d be dead in three minutes! Your heart takes blood to the lungs, where carbon dioxide is exchanged for oxygen. Clean air improves brain function, and it increases the production of serotonin, which regulates sleep and mood.

Getting some sunshine. 

Sunshine is nature’s antiseptic, and it also bolsters the immune system by boosting white blood cell production. What’s more, it also converts “bad” cholesterol into vitamin D, which in turn increases the body’s calcium absorption. Sunlight stimulates the function of the thyroid gland, which regulates metabolism, and it boosts the body’s production of melatonin (which enables restful sleep). Now you know why your parents and grandparents always told you that a little sunshine would do you a world of good!

Outdoor exercise is easy to fit into your life. 

We should all exercise daily, but sometimes we just can’t fit it in. If you are a gym-goer, you have to take the time to drive there, plus find the time during your day to work out. It’s far simpler (and better for the environment) to just walk out the door. It can be as easy as walking during your lunch break; a post-meal walk will aid in digestion, and get rid of the dreaded mid-afternoon slump.

It’s totally free!

 You won’t have to worry about paying gym dues, or for fuel to drive back and forth. If you take your workouts outdoors, you won’t need to worry about spending money on the most fashionable gym clothes, or impressing other gym-goers; just wear something comfortable and get to it.

It’s fun.

 Gym workouts can be pretty monotonous, because machines move in repetitive patterns, but if you exercise outside, you can have a lot of fun and variety. Choose from activities like walking, a 5k run, biking, soccer, skating, and basketball. You’ll burn calories and have a blast at the same time!

According to a 2004 study done at the University of Michigan, people who walk outside instead of on a treadmill are more likely to walk for longer time periods if their walking route includes natural features like water and trees, and that outdoor exercisers enjoy an added mental benefit. No matter whether you skate, play ball, walk, run or bike, outdoor fitness can help your body and mind in more ways than one. ?

This Post was written by James Harper on behalf of The Poppy Run who organise charity 5K runs every year.

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