Getting sick of running the on same bike path day after day, or even worse, hitting start on the gym treadmill? It is extremely important for your health to stay active everyday and sometimes these options are all you have, however, getting outside and hitting the trails has a lot of key benefits not only on your physical health, but your mental health too. Let's dig into some of these benefits...
1. Improves mental and cognitive health
A previous study at Stanford found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.
This is where running in the outdoors truly excels compared to other forms of exercise. In this day and age, we spend a majority of our time indoors, tied down to our iPhones and laptops...this shouldn't be! As human beings, we were created to be in nature. Give yourself at least 30 minutes in the "Green" outdoors and you will notice a positive effect on mood and aspects of cognitive function, including working memory, as well as a dampening effect on anxiety.
2. Less prone to injury
It may come to a surprise to non-trail runners, but you are a lot less likely to get injured trail running than road running. A majority of running injuries come from repetitive strain (the repetitive act of each stride stressing a small set of the same muscles over and over). When you use the same muscles over and over, they can easily become weak or overused, which will cause an injury.
Trail running breaks up the repetitiveness. The uneven terrain, constant changes in elevation, softer surface, and slightly reduced pace mean each stride is different, reducing injury-causing repetition.
3. Burn more calories
Studies show that walking on uneven terrain requires more energy than walking on smooth ground, engaging more muscle activity and metabolic expenditure. You are engaging a lot more muscles including your core for balance. Plus, your body adapts to repetitive exercise like road running every day and you will no longer burn the same amount of calories. When you are using your core for balance and changing your stride constantly, your body is less likely to adapt, causing you to burn more calories.
4. Increases Balance
Trails have twists, turns, uphills, downhills, creeks to make your run more challenging. Jumping over rocks and boulders will cause you to engage your stabilizing muscles, including your core. Using these different stabilizing muscle groups for balance in your workout will also decrease your risk of injury.
5. It's Fun
Running can be a dreading thought when you take the same street path everyday. Have some fun in the trails and jump over some rocks and creeks like you did when you were a kid. It will offer you a rejuvenated mind and body to take on any stressors life can bring your way!
Check out some of our local trails around the Quad Cities: