Gavriel is a 36 year old who comes to see me specifically for weight loss. He puts in a full day of learning and tends to his business matters in the evening and night. As a family man, he is fairly busy all the time. He is doing very well in his weight loss program and he is very careful about his eating and tries not to miss a day of exercise. This week, he had specific questions for me regarding the fact that it is the middle of the summer, he loves to still try to exercise outdoors, but in the middle of the day, sometimes the heat can be to unbearable for him. So, we discussed the value of outdoor workouts and how to prepare for them so they aren’t harmful.
Like any type of workout, indoors or out, it is important to make the proper preparations before you start. First and foremost, make sure you are hydrated properly. Exercise performance decreases with just a 1 percent loss of body fluid. Going into a workout dehydrated decreases the time until you reach exhaustion and inhibits performance. As the percent of water loss increases, the severity of symptoms increases. Water is necessary for a number of bodily functions, including the regulation of your body temperature. Make it a point to stay hydrated before you head out for your next training bout. In addition to the 8-10 cups of water per day we should all be drinking, one should drink 2 cups of water within an hour before exercising, consume 4-8 ounces of fluid every 10-15 minutes during the workout, and consume 2 cups of fluid for every .5 kilogram lost during exercise at the conclusion of the workout.
Food for Fuel
There is a long-standing debate about whether it’s best to perform aerobic exercise after a fast or after eating. Although fasted cardio can help tap into fat stores, this doesn’t necessarily translate into the best or most intense workout. If you think about it, the body’s main source of energy is carbohydrate, which it can use during high-intensity exercise because it requires less oxygen to metabolize. Training at greater intensities helps increase post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which makes it possible to continue to burn fat beyond a workout. Conversely, when you exercise at lower intensities (because you haven’t eaten enough), your body will not be able to burn energy at the same rate as it did when exercising using carbohydrates as the primary fuel source.
The best sources of fuel are carbohydrates. They are quickly digested and absorbed into the muscles via the bloodstream. This provides the muscles with energy, which allows you to train harder, faster and longer. Fruits and liquid carbohydrate solutions (juices) are both good options that can allow you to go into a workout feeling fueled, but not overly full.
The next question to answer is how much fuel you need and how soon before a workout you should consume it. This will be different for every person. Some people can eat right before exercising, while others need more time to digest their food. And how much food you need will depend on the duration and intensity of your workout. Anyone who has exercised for a long time can tell you that there is a trial and error period of time until you can figure out for yourself just how much to eat, exactly which foods work for you and how long before exercise to stop eating.
Vitamin D Benefits
One of the great benefits of outdoor exercising in the summer is that sunshine is the primary source of Vitamin D. Even in the more northern latitudes, where in the winter vitamin D is impossible to get from the sun, in the summer, it is abundant.
In recent years, numerous studies have shown that having adequate amounts of Vitamin D in our bodies prevents many cancers, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, asthma in children, and diabetes. In fact, the latest research seems to connect low levels of Vitamin D with a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
Research in the area of Vitamin D is ongoing, and continues to looks very, very promising as a tool in the prevention of numerous ailments and diseases. In addition to heart disease, many cancers and immune system diseases like MS, it seems to help prevent rheumatoid arthritis, infectious diseases such as the flu and perhaps mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. So it seems that a little sunshine can go a long, long way. 20 minutes per day without sunscreen 4 days a week from 9:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon should do the trick. More than 20 minutes in the peak heat of the day is not advised.
The Best Reason of All
A February 2011 study found that outdoor workouts showed an improvement in mental well-being, compared with exercising indoors. Exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.
Caution in the Sun
Because the weather is now warmer, take caution to start early in the day or do your walking or jogging toward the evening hours. Drink plenty of water before, after and during your walk. Although we need our Vitamin D, wear clothing that is lose-fitting, but covers much of your body on sunny days. Make sure to wear a hat or cap to protect yourself from the sun and also to retain water. Most water escapes through the head.
Once we went over all of this with Gavriel and we were able to find times that fit into his schedule while there was still plenty of sunshine, he felt a lot better. He told me that even though he is seeing great results in all areas, the biggest motivator for him to keep exercising is getting in his 35 minute power walk every day in the outdoors. It clears his head, gives him a big energy boost and improves his mood. He learns better afterwards and is able to relax with his family and think more clearly in the evening and night.
Outdoor workouts are a great way to “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”