How Does Being Outdoors Support Weight Loss?
Most stress-busting research today talks about tools like mindfulness, meditation, physical activity, talking with a friend or journaling to help relieve stress. On May 30th the Sierra Club published an article entitled “Can Getting Outside Really Improve Your Mental Wellness?” by Katherine Wei, in which Wei states that getting outside is proven to keep your mind healthy and relaxed. Several studies were discussed and in every case being outside was shown to have a strong influence on mood and overall outlook.
The Sierra Club article went on to support the notion that engaging in any form of physical activity in nature can boost one’s mood.
In another recent study, it was shown that walking in the afternoon, when many think of turning to caffeine can give you just the mental jolt you need to plow through the remainder of the day.1
A 2011 study quoted in the June 2nd edition of Weight Watcher Freestyle Weekly showed that “taking a stroll outdoors is associated with improved self-esteem, engagement, vitality, and revitalization – as well as feelings of energy, pleasure, and delight.”2
It is a well-known fact that aerobic activity improves mood, quality of life, self-esteem, sleep quality, and overall ability to handle stress.
As I have said before in this blog, choosing a physical activity, particularly an outdoor activity that one considers fun and a friend to join you will enhance the intrinsic motivators needed to sustain a physically fit lifestyle.3
To take this research a step further, I looked at how I could apply the above ideas to supporting healthy eating.
When an overeater gets stressed, the idea of food simply jumps into their mind. Who ever conceived of being outside as a curative for overeating?
The notion that being outdoors creates a feeling of enhanced mood or happiness can help reduce emotional food cravings.
So similar to using mindful meditation to create a feeling of calm or inner peace, the great outdoors can also enhance that peaceful feeling. And that is when an overeater’s food trigger gets reduced or even eliminated, when they are not stressed.
When applied to the workplace, this notion of reducing stress by going outdoors is powerful. Many American workers experience some level of stress during most workweeks. So why not encourage outdoor activities, like a daily walk around the block or an outdoor walking meeting to reduce workplace stress?
1 Derek D. Randolph, Patrick J. O’Connor. Stair walking is more energizing than low dose caffeine in sleep deprived young women, Physiology & Behavior (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.03.013
2 Environmental Science Technology “Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors?” This research
3 “Making Fitness Resolutions Stick,” (1/1/2018), http://www.janicelitvin.com/make-fitness-resolutions-stick-in-2018-3-tips-from-a-fitness-instructor/
San Francisco-based Janice Litvin is available for keynotes or workplace wellness programs. Contact her via email at Janice@JaniceLitvin.com or by calling 415.518.2202. Look for her upcoming book, Working Well: How to Succeed at Workplace Wellness, due out by December, 2018.