The weather outside may be frightful, but if you can make it outside to exercise—or at least bring some of the great outdoors inside—you'll be more likely to stick to a workout plan, finds a new study from the University of Sherbrooke in Canada.
"The happier you feel while exercising, the more likely you are to stay with it," says study coauthor Marianne Lacharité-Lemieux, an exercise researcher at Sherbrooke. And the outdoor exercisers in her study enjoyed their workout sessions much more than those running and lifting indoors.
But what if you don't have easy access to nature, or winter weather makes outdoor exercise difficult? If you can work out in front of a window that opens onto natural elements like trees and water, that helps, Lacharité-Lemieux says. She also suggests tuning a nearby TV or computer monitor to outdoor scenes, or listening to sounds of nature through headphones.
Absent all those imitations of nature, try to focus your thoughts on the feeling of your muscles contracting or your legs moving during exercise, and try to enjoy those physical sensations. "Nature allows us to remain in a quiet state of mind and to concentrate on the real-time, feel-good components of exercise, not the calories we're burning or the physical appearance we want to have," Lacharité-Lemieux adds.
By Markham Heid