Outdoor fitness is good for everyone — especially college students. Here’s why: College students spend most of their time indoors, under artificial lighting, breathing reconditioned air, surrounded with electronic white noise. Exercising in a gym, health club or recreation center provides the same exact environment.
We need a better place to decompress and recharge, and it’s outside. Humans need nature, sunlight and fresh air. Just being in a natural environment has been shown to decrease tension, blood pressure, anxiety and depression. Then there’s natural sunlight, which elevates mood, happiness, positivity and mental health.
And fresh air raises serotonin levels, which helps regulate natural sleep cycles, and it’s an anti-depressant. There’s a common theme here. A good one.
College students are under a lot of pressure, beyond just the coursework: social anxieties, leaving the comfort of home, finances, peer pressure, parental expectations, personal responsibilities and career aspirations to name just a few.
So, we see the benefits of being outdoors, but why exercise? Why move? For the cerebellum, of course. This part of the brain that processes movement is also the exact same part of the brain responsible for learning.
So many studies have shown aerobic exercise improves many aspects of cognitive function, such as memory, decision-making, problem solving and attention.
But what about strength exercises? Resistance training has been shown to improve “executive function,” such as the ability to selectively pay attention to your professor instead of your iPhone. For that benefit alone, do we need to say more? Other executive functions are the ability to think before you act – inhibitory control – cognitive flexibility, and the capacity to hold information in your mind and manipulate it. Good for all of us, but especially for college students.
To summarize, outdoor exercise helps us to decompress, relax, improve sleep, fight depression and anxiety, while elevating mood, positivity, and overall mental health. It improves brain function, neuroplasticity, memory, problem solving, attention and cognitive flexibility.
If I was a professor, I’d want all my students to get some outdoor fitness.
Rob Wilson is a sales and marketing manager with GameTime. He has 16 years experience with the indoor fitness industry and currently works with campus recreation centers to plan outdoor fitness experiences. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more at gametime.com/fitness.