It’s definitely not easy to talk yourself into going out for a run or hike in this kind of weather. The treadmill sounds so much more inviting, even if it can’t hold our attention span for as long as we’d like. But here’s some motivation for you to get that body out into the fresh air: Doing the same workout outside—let’s say, a 30 minute run at 9 minute pace—actually burns more calories than it would indoors. Don’t believe us? We asked top experts in the field to explain why exercising outside is everything it’s made out to be and more.
Scientifically Put, It Increases “Gas Exchange”
Trainer Kusha Karvandi, CEO of Exerscribe, explains gas exchange simply as the muscles’ capability to burn energy, also known as calories. “When you prepare for activity, your brain increases your respiration rate, and the amount of oxygen you consume increases,” says Karvandi. When you exercise outside, your ability to consume oxygen and balance CO2 levels internally are increased even more. Because the body now has better gas exchange rate, it burns more calories compared to both lounging around and exercising indoors.
The Terrain Makes You Earn It
Whether you’re working out on the beach, sand, or snow, you burn more calories because you’re forced to exert more energy to do the same exercise. “The uneven surface makes your body constantly engaged and aware, causing you to use all your little stabilizer muscles in your core and ankles,” says Minna Herskowiz, fitness trainer and co-owner of Sandbox Fitness. “When you’re working out on an unstable surface, you’re forced to expend more energy, thus burning more calories. Your body needs to adapt to the changes using different muscles on every step,” Herskowiz explains.
You’re Up Against the Elements
Terrain isn’t your only obstacle. “When you’re indoors everything is controlled, but when you walk out the door you have to control your body through an ever changing environment of wind, currents, cars, and pot holes,” says fitness trainer and health coach Clint Fuqua. All of these challenges increase testosterone and growth hormone levels that aid in recovery. This results in a rise in metabolic activity for several hours and the burning of a few more calories.
Temperature Matters Too
Well … sort of. “Temperature has little to do with how many calories you burn,” says Stratten Waldt, the founder of Bia Women. “However, temperature will affect your endurance, and therefore, how long you are likely to work out.” And more times than not, we’ll sustain a longer workout in cooler temps because it takes longer to fatigue.
You’re More Likely to Do It
Regardless of how the body works, let’s admit one thing: The great outdoors (or the big city) keeps your attention over the inside of a gym. “A recent study [by The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry] showed that outdoor exercise is associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy, and positive engagement, while decreasing tension and depression,” says Jimmy Minardi, founder of Minardi Training. “Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and said they were more likely to repeat the activity again.” After all, greater motivation is the only thing guarantee to provide greater calorie burn in the long run.