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Four people engaging in a plank-type exercise on grass.
Four people engaging in a plank-type exercise on grass.

The Benefits of Outdoor Training

4 minute read

Personal trainers are more than likely to encounter clients who prefer to workout away from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of the gym, health club or fitness studio, and instead prefer to exercise at home or outdoors.

There may be several reasons why some people have taken a dislike to the conventional approach to exercise; perhaps they feel intimidated at the prospect of training in an environment where they believe they will be judged by others, or maybe they feel physically inferior to other users of the fitness facility.

Whatever the reason, trying to change their mindset is likely to be futile, and will only reinforce any negative associations that they have. Exercise professionals should instead embrace and encourage the client’s decision to become more active, and work with them to develop a personalised and suitable programme of exercise and/or physical activity.

Many clients find training in an outdoor environment considerably more appealing because it provides variety, visual stimulation and, in turn, helps them to stay motivated. Within reason, and with the right level of planning, almost any outdoor environment can be used as a training location to add true and meaningful value to the health, fitness and wellbeing of your clients.

Advantages of Outdoor Training

When structured correctly, training in an outdoor environment can be productive, effective and inspiring for a variety of reasons.

First of all, outdoor training presents a greater space within which to exercise. This can help to combat any claustrophobia that comes with being in a gym, and also means you simply have more room to do activities in – this could be high intensity interval training, for example.

It also provides a more visually stimulating environment to work in. Some people, perhaps visual learners who have taken our VAK Learning Styles Questionnaire, find working within the same blank and boring walls quite demotivating. Being in a bright, fresh, and interesting outdoor environment could work wonders.

Certain terrains could also prove to be a more challenging and functional environment to exercise in. Working on hills or rocky paths may help to improve skills like balance and proprioception, for example. On the other hand, there could also be a simplicity that comes to training outdoors, with less of a reliance on complex equipment.

For the personal trainer, training clients outdoors could also be beneficial in terms of reduced costs. After all, training outside is free in most cases, meaning you don’t have to pay the rent costs you might have to in a gym. Furthermore, appealing to a wider client base can help you to attract and then retain more clients, which is only beneficial to your incomings.

There’s also the idea of better hormone regulation- numerous studies have demonstrated that being outdoors increases the circulating levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is strongly linked with mood. Outdoor exercise, therefore, helps to promote a more stable mood profile.

The Biophilia Effect

This concept was originally conceived by Dr E.O. Wilson of Harvard University and directly translates as ‘the love of life’. The biophilia effect states that environments rich in visually stimulating scenery, or those which engage the body’s olfactory (scent) or auditory senses (sound) with natural stimuli, can significantly reduce symptoms of stress and increase positive mood, focus and concentration.

It is believed that human beings have a deep, innate affinity to be at one with nature and that we have an intrinsic and emotional connection with other living organisms. This compulsion is believed to be deeply rooted in our DNA and, when unfulfilled, explains why disease and sickness so often presents.

The biophilla effect is also believed to be the primary motivation for the inclusions of plants, flowers or animals into the home, since each of these acts can be interpreted as an attempt to become closer to nature.

Since outdoor exercise exposes the body’s sensory systems to a multitude of natural stimuli, any biophillia needs are much more likely to be fulfilled than when exercising indoors than in a gym, studio or other indoor environment.

The above feature content is a diluted extract from the Level 3 Outdoor Training qualification student manual. For more information on this course, or to enrol, contact one of our careers advisors today.

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