Find time to exercise outside

By Jenna Careri

Andy Castillo/Daily Collegian
(Andy Castillo/Daily Collegian)

This weekend, I went running with a friend. We ran outdoors, on a farm actually. We were cold when we started and hot by the time we finished. The sun was bright, the leaves were colorful, and it was, in my opinion, the most autumnal day to date this year.

A crisp breeze blew past us, the first hint of cooler weather after a brutally long summer. And for the first time that week, I wasn’t worried about the article I had to read, or the two-and-a-half hour film I had to find time to watch, or the internship that I desperately need but am horribly unqualified for.

All exercise causes a release of endorphins, which is why it is such a good outlet for stress. Personally, however,  there is something special about exercising outdoors that makes me a hundred times happier than I ever could be in a gym.

My friend and I concurred – there is something inherently better about getting outside. And as it turns out, it isn’t just us. Studies have found that outdoor activity can actually be more beneficial for mental health and stress reduction than indoor exercise, by as much more as 50 percent.

All of our lives are so busy, especially in college. There are clubs, homework assignments, tests, games, concerts, parties and somewhere in the midst of that we still have to find time to sleep and eat.

Outdoor activity allows and, in some ways, forces us to let go of this craziness. We are forced to do nothing but be for however long we are exercising. Green space and natural environments automatically calm us. We are reminded that there is more to the world than our tiny dorm rooms we share with a roommate who hates us, or the homework we are drowning in, or that one friend who is mad at us for that one thing we did that one time.

Going to the gym is great. After all, UMass has a beautiful new recreation center that is such a good resource, offering almost any type of exercise there is. But it is also in the middle of everything. It gets crowded, there are time limits and people can see you exercising, which I can say firsthand is never attractive – just look at all my cross-country pictures from high school.

So I often take my exercise outside. The fresh air clears my head, the scenery puts me at peace and for once, I am alone, which as we all know does not happen often.

College, much like the gym, can sometimes feel particularly crowded. We share living spaces. We go to class and we are surrounded by other people. We walk home from class and are again surrounded by other people. We eat dinner with people. We do homework with people. We go out with people.

We all need occasional breaks from this congestion. Next to food, water and shelter, space is the fourth and last essential component to our survival. Outside, we can get as far away as our legs or bikes will carry us. We can get some space and take a moment to ourselves to refocus, refresh, and relax.

We are lucky enough to go to a university surrounded by natural beauty. We have the ability to exercise outside without the threat of extreme air pollution or dangerous intersections. We can try out the Norwottuck Rail Trail, head up to the Berkshires, or take a walk through a park.

Yet too often we, college students, do not take advantage of it, even though we are some of the people who need it the most.

Now get outside and enjoy the fresh air before we’re buried in snow.

Jenna Careri is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]