How Using an Outdoor Gym Promotes Good Mental Health

For centuries people have known that a person’s physical health greatly impacts their mental health.

Gymnasiums have been a popular way to engage in physical activity since the Ancient Greek and Roman times. Throughout history, communities have benefited from these large, open air facilities which have been used for health promotion and as places for social gathering.

Nowadays, these outdoor gyms or ‘green gyms’, as they are also known are still bringing communities together to meet, socialise and keep fit and healthy. Outdoor gyms will continue to play a vital role while we live in Covid-19 times, as they offer fresh air, wide open spaces and vitamin D from the sun. Outdoor gym equipment can be found in most parks and is a great way to do a full body workout or a warm-up and cool down after a run. Most outdoor bootcamps will combine outdoor gym equipment with their workout too.

Fresh Air Fitness offer a range of outdoor gym equipment and their research has shown that people feel ‘happy’ when they use outdoor gym equipment – a direct link between physical activity and mental happiness. Added to this, physical activity improves your stamina and energy levels and decreases anxiety and depression. Exercise also improves your sleep and your memory, relieves stress, and boosts your mood.

Four types of exercise and why we need them

There are four different types of exercise which have been identified: aerobic, balance, strength and flexibility. To unlock a whole range of health benefits, it’s important to do a bit of each. Often people just stick to one type as they feel it’s the most effective or they enjoy it the most, but everyone should work towards including some aerobics, balance, flexibility and strength training into their fitness routines.

Aerobics

Aerobics is an overall fantastic type of exercise. It burns body fat, improves breathing efficiency, lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels, reduces inflammation, relaxes blood vessel walls, boosts your mood, and more. You will find a whole range of equipment at your local outdoor gym, perfect for incorporating aerobics into your workout routine. Common pieces are the Air Skier, Arm and Pedal Bike, Disabled Arm and Pedal Bike, Cardio Combi, and Recumbent Bike which can all be used for a fantastic full-body cardiovascular workout. Carrying out aerobic training over the long term can reduce your risk of a number of serious health conditions including heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, depression, and falls.

There is a common misconception that aerobics must be class based. However, aerobics also includes activities such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing and gardening. All these activities have been proven to lessen both depression and anxiety.

Strength Training

Strength training is extremely important as you lose muscle mass as you get older and this type of exercise helps to build it back up. The benefits of strength training aren’t limited to feeling stronger, it also helps with bone growth, assists with weight control, lowers blood sugar, improves balance and posture, and relieves stress and pain in the lower back and joints. Outdoor gym equipment that is ideal for strength training includes Chin Up Bars, Sit Up Bench and the Resistance Leg Press. The

Chin Up Bars can be used to build strength in the arms and shoulders, the Sit Up Bench improves core and arm strength and the Resistance Leg Press strengthens the legs and glutes.

Lifting weights is also believed to improve a person’s mindfulness by focusing the mind on the present. The intense concentration and focus used to make sure each rep is correctly carried out, during strength training or weightlifting, generates a form of mindfulness and can be used as a therapeutic technique.

The physical sensations sweeping through your body by the end of a hard set are so powerful that it becomes almost impossible for your thoughts and attention to be anywhere else. This gives your mind an escape from any stress or worry.

Stretching

To maintain flexibility, stretching is paramount. Stretching can also benefit your mental health as it slows the production of stress hormones by stimulating receptors in the nervous system.

With age people start to lose flexibility in their muscles and tendons. Inflexible muscles tire easily and can lead to muscle damage, strains, cramps, pain, and falling. Some outdoor gyms have one large piece of multi-functional, multi station equipment which can be also be used for low impact, gentle stretching exercise.

To focus your mind on your body, giving yourself a mental break, make sure to take time to stretch every day. Breathing deeply while you stretch helps to release all of your pent-up energy and prevents stress from taking over. 

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