You’ve got the latest technology in training gear, and you’ve just scaled up your workout intensity. As with any committed fitness enthusiast, it’s wonderful that you’re committed to do better and train harder. But is it better to work out in the sun?
Well, have you ever considered that tweaking your exercise’s location can have benefits too?
Many of us consider the gym as our training heaven. Complete equipment. Hands-on coaches. Perhaps the large wall mirrors there are perfect for taking instagrammable photos – a plus for some of us.
Don’t get us wrong – indoor training isn’t the default preference of most people for no reason. But in this guide, allow us to play the role of a devil’s advocate.
From the impact of temperature changes to its array of health benefits, let’s settle the score and determine whether it is better to work out in the sun.
- 1 How does temperature affect your workout?
- 2 What are the advantages of outdoor workouts over indoor workouts?
- 3 What are the possible injuries you should avoid when working out in the sun?
- 4 Tips and tricks for safe outdoor workouts
- 5 Final Thoughts
How does temperature affect your workout?
Most gyms are equipped with air conditioning units. Meanwhile, the weather pretty much calls the shots in how hot your training day would be. It’s hard to predict whether you’d be sweating buckets or be forced to run against a really cold breeze.
For the first round of today’s match between indoor and outdoor exercises, let’s explore how different temperatures can bring you closer to your desired results.
It’s common to think that more sweat means more calories burnt. However, that’s not entirely true. In fact, we might have to give this win to gyms with cooling systems. But we have to consider the effects of cold thermogenesis and taking that into account, perhaps even the outdoors wins here.
Basically, your body will be able to regulate your temperature better in colder environments. This means you’d survive longer training, leading to a higher amount of calories shed.
Even better, a study from the University of Kentucky has shown that the cold triggers the body to use up your belly and thigh fat in an attempt to warm itself. They also found that people’s metabolism rates tend to be faster in the winter than in the summer.
Keeping things in perspective, working out under the hot sun will help build your endurance better. It can even amplify your performance in cooler environments.
Want proof? The University of Oregon tested 20 trained cyclists under the same duration and intensity of exercise, but in different controlled temperatures. One group had to survive a brutal 104 degrees Fahrenheit room, while the other had it easier at 55 degrees.
10 days’ worth of training later, both groups were tested at 55 degrees. The results? The cyclists who were initially exposed to a hotter environment rode 6% faster, produced 5% higher aerobic power, and 9.1% increased cardiac output.
A closer look in the previous study revealed that heat training increased the plasma present in the cyclists’ blood, a compound that facilitates thermoregulation.
Put simply, higher temperature challenges your body to support muscle activity and cool the skin too. This causes a sort of competition for blood flow that stimulates the heart.
With increased oxygen capacity and higher blood volume, it’s clear that this point also has to go to sunny outdoor workouts.
What are the advantages of outdoor workouts over indoor workouts?
The option of working out in the sun presently has the lead, but let’s pull away farther by enumerating its advantages over indoor training.
Physical boosts from the outdoors and natural light
It’s a given that prolonged exposure to the sun puts you at risk of its ultraviolet rays’ wrath, but this mitigable issue isn’t enough to ignore the health benefits of an outdoor workout.
We’re living in an era where even the air we breathe can spell the difference between life and death.
Pollution. Viral transmissions. Perhaps your biggest worry is that you’ll catch an illness if you train outside.
However, the Environmental Protection Agency believes otherwise. Indoor air can be far more dangerous, even when compared to that of the busiest American cities.
Air conditioning systems present in most gyms can also be a microbes’ best friend since it facilitates transmission within the entire room. Physical distancing won’t stand a chance. Regardless of how far you are from an infected person, chances are you’d get sick anyway.
Improved circadian rhythm
When training indoors, you get exposed to artificial light (e.g. LED and incandescent bulbs) that have been proven to disrupt your sleep cycle. Your body follows a physiological pattern guided by light, with the sun as its best compass.
Meaning, working out in the sun improves your circadian rhythm. This makes you more resilient to insomnia, seasonal affective disorder, obesity, and even severe complications such as heart diseases and cancer.
Natural light can help people cope with physical and mental stress better. Basking under the sun helps put your body in a relaxed state by regulating your heart rate. In contrast, electrical lights usually stimulate our body’s production of stress hormones.
Artificial light’s glare and flickering can irritate your eyes, and prolonged exposure even increases your risk of getting migraines. You might even develop permanent problems with your vision such as myopia.
Outdoor training is an added challenge in itself. Whether you’re running in the park or climbing a mountain, your body has to deal with a constantly changing environment. Bumps. Obstacles. Changed inclinations.
According to the American Council on Exercise, working out in the sun pushes you to work harder as compared to simply training in the gym.
Increased psychological benefits
As if its long list of health perks isn’t convincing enough, outdoor training can also be a superb mental health boost. Take it from our friends in the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry who studied over 800 adults in 11 trials. Working out in the sun has been proven to reduce anger, tension, confusion, and even depression better than indoor exercises.
Giving your all at the gym can be quite intimidating, especially for beginners. Ever felt like all eyes are on you? Meanwhile, squirrels and birds could care less about you during your morning jog. Researchers from the University of Essex also found that training with nature can significantly enhance your self-esteem.
We saved the most practical advantage for last. While you might be needing durable shoes, weather-friendly apparel, and a powerful sunscreen, chances are you’d still spend less on outdoor training than you would for a regular gym membership.
What are the possible injuries you should avoid when working out in the sun?
You may reap physical and psychological benefits from working out in the sun, but outdoor exercises can also cause injuries and complications you should definitely watch out for. Take these red flags in mind before you make the switch:
Prolonged exposure in the sun only invites painful sunburns. When applying sunblock, most people also miss gentle areas like the scalp, lips, and ears. It’s also a bummer that most lotions wear off as you sweat.
The greatest advantage of treadmills is that they provide softer surfaces that cause less strain on your joints. They are also kinder to your kicks, helping protect your feet from swelling after a long run. From stray rocks to unexpected changes in inclination, nature has a lot of obstacles that can cause unwanted injuries.
Working out in the sun can make you sweat a lot more than indoor training would. However, carrying a bottle around in the park can be quite a hassle. There might be water fountains around the area, but you might need more than just water to restore all the electrolytes you’ve lost.
Simply exercising under the sun can disrupt your electrolyte balance, triggering dreaded cramps or spasms in your shoulders, calves, and thighs. Sadly, there are people who skip warm-up stretches and lack knowledge on how to pace themselves in accordance with their environment’s temperature.
Exercising under the sun can make a moist, warm swamp out of your shoes that can make it easier to develop blisters. Increased friction is also a nightmare for your feet. Your favorite workout socks might not work as well as it did when you were at the gym.
Bad news for our fitness queens, extra sweaty clothes can make the area down there vulnerable to bacterial infection. These guys love warm and moist environments. Outdoor workouts tend to be hotter, and a fresh shower isn’t as accessible as with indoor training.
You might never have been the kill-me-now-i’m-dying-anyway type after an intense gym session, but the sun’s unforgiving heat might turn you into one. You might want to think twice about gobbling down a big meal within an hour after working out. People who exercise outdoors may also develop headaches more often.
While sweating and heat don’t really cause a breakout, you might develop acne more if your skincare involves the layering of multiple products. Less is more for outdoor workouts. Patting down your primer, moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup on top of the other will more likely damage the skin than protect it.
Tips and tricks for safe outdoor workouts
It’s our duty to warn you of those health risks, but we do hope we did not scare you off. Don’t worry, safe outdoor workouts are possible.
Schedule your exercises early in the morning
Join the sunrise with an equally explosive commitment to working out. Early morning is our most recommended period for outdoor training since the air will be at its cleanest, the sun isn’t as harsh as it could be, and your energy levels are usually at its highest. You’d definitely love that feel-good sensation that could last all day long.
Stay clear of extreme temperatures
The human body is powerful enough to adapt to temperature changes, but it also has limits. According to Harvard Medical Scool, exercising outdoors when it’s extremely hot is a surefire way to catch cramping, nausea, palpitations, headache, and even fainting.
Depending on your routine’s intensity, you might need to stay hydrated before, during, and after working out in the sun. You’d be sweating a whole lot more than at the gym, and it’s important to replace all those lost fluids.
Off to a quick 30-minute training? Drinking 8 to 10 ounces of water before you head outdoors can do the trick. Don’t worry about electrolytes-rich sports drinks for simple and light exercises.
But if you’re aiming for a really challenging workout, staying hydrated means everything! Otherwise, you’re putting yourself at risk of fatigue and even short-term memory loss. Remember to gulp down 16 to 24 ounces of water about an hour before training, and back it up with 4 to 6 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes into your exercise.
Invest in quality gear
You’d be saving on over hundreds of bucks from gym memberships anyway, so try not to go cheap on your outdoor workout apparel.
Ideally, you should take advantage of waterproof and breathable materials fit for all types of weather. Your gears should also protect you from rashes and other skin irritation. What a plus if you find clothes that are designed with built-in sun protection.
Working out in the sun might also tempt you to strip off, but don’t! The goal is to cool down, not to increase your chances of getting burnt. Instead of exposing much of your skin to harmful rays, go for light-colored clothing that can assist quick evaporation of your sweat.
Don’t forget to protect your head too! Always wear a cap to keep your head cool and reduce your chances of getting heatstroke.
Protect your skin
Hear at bodyweight heaven we are a big fan of natural Vitamin D accumulation, this means you have to build melanin in your skin and build your solar callus (no sunscreen!). Now that can be tough, so you need to protect yourself, either by utilizing the shade or clothing. Should have to be out and exposed and don’t have that callous – wearing at least SPF 30 can be a stop-gap. Just don’t abuse it and try to stay healthy and natural!
The verdict might depend on your goals and preferences, but we highly recommend working out in the sun if you’re up for superb endurance training and enhanced cardiovascular health.
Moreover, we can’t emphasize enough how important natural light is in developing superior physical and mental health. Who would’ve thought the seemingly harmless LED bulbs and even air conditioning systems at the gym can actually sabotage your fitness?
Outdoor training may come with inherent health risks, but they’re nothing that simple safety precautions can’t mitigate.
Eager and interested to conquer the great outdoors? We’d love to hear your thoughts (even your reservations too) on working out in the sun! Drop them in the comments below, and let’s have a chat.