“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and winds long to play with your hair.”
Whether opening up the cycle room in the quiet light of the early morning sunrise, teaching breath and movement in our open-air beach shala, with the sound of the waves in the background, or taking a moment in between teaching a core or cycle class to watch green jungle leaves move around in a cool breeze, the same two words surface – nature and space.
I have lived in extremely crowded and polluted cities, where the heat is so stifling that it feels as though you stepped into an oven, where the air is so polluted that trees are a permanent shade of beige and you commonly cough or sneeze black soot, where movement outdoor become so limited that you have to resort to a chemical-laden, poorly-circulated indoor gym or studio. During these times, Samahita Retreat became an oasis to visit and after living here for some years, it still feels like perfection.
If you have the chance get to out in any green, natural space where you live, now more than ever is the time to make the shift to the outdoors.
“Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit.” –Edward Abbey
More Reasons to Take Your Workout Outdoors
A new report from the University of East Anglia reveals that people who spend more time in, or live near, to natural green spaces provides a significant health boost. The data from over 140 studies, involving more than 290 million people, in over 20 countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan, where “Shinrin yoku” or Forest bathing is a popular practice. The research shows that spending more time in nature correlates with a measurable reduction in diastolic blood pressure, heart rate and stress, along with a reduced risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth and increase sleep duration .
Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
Expanding on these findings, a systematic review in the research journal Environmental Science and Technology, in February 2011 shows the positive correlation between improved mental and physical well-being and exercising outdoors compared to indoor environments. The team analyzes data from eleven randomized and non-randomized control trials, which surveys over 800 adults. Not only did participants report a greater feeling of enjoyment, self-esteem, and a sense of revitalization while moving in green, natural spaces, but they also experience a decreased feeling of anger, depression and tension .
Another study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology shows that this benefit doesn’t take long to experience. Just five minutes of exercise in nature has a noticeable effect. An analysis of 1,252 people drawn from ten studies in the United Kingdom shows that outdoor activities, such as: walking, gardening, cycling, fishing, horse-riding and farming, all lead to improved mental and physical health. Additionally, green areas with water add even more benefit .
Further Maximize the Benefits of Being Outdoors
1. Grounding – Kick Off Your Shoes
It is easy to be barefoot here at Samahita Retreat. In only a few steps, you can walk the stone paths from your room to our facilities and access the beachfront for some beautiful strolls or runs.
Throughout the day, we build up electrical charges; Think about when long hair rises up after using a plastic brush or putting on a thick fleece sweater, or the shock that is triggered when you slide on socks across a carpet. Electrons travel to a ground through the path of least resistance; Think about when you get a little shock touching something metal after walking across that carpet. The simple act of going outside, away from synthetic fabrics and flooring, taking off your insulating shoes and touching the earth with your bare feet, helps to discharge acquired electrostatic charge and achieve electrical homeostasis.
Emerging research from twelve peer-reviewed reports, in the Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, concede that direct physical contact with the surface of the earth generates a kind of electric support, with significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects .
More specifically, grounding has been shown to help:
- Regulate cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone 
- Reduce inflammation and neutralize free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that damage healthy cells 
- Improve sleep quality 
- Reduce some risk factors for cardiovascular disease 
This grounding effect can be amplified in areas abundant in negative ions, such as places close to moving water – rivers, waterfalls, crashing waves and being outdoors just after rain showers and thunderstorms. So, there are even more reasons to enjoy that beach walk, touch your toes in the moving tides, or make the effort to go and explore some of the many waterfalls around Koh Samui when you next visit Samahita Retreat.
In the meantime, take your run out onto the beach, bring your TRX to a park and hook it up under a tree, or try a simple, portable five, one-minute plank challenge barefoot in your backyard.
2. Get Out in Twenty Minutes of Early Morning Sun
Being on the Eastern facing part of Koh Samui island, we receive some stunning and subtle early morning light. Furthermore, being so close to the equator, although we do have our rainy seasons, it is fairly easy to find sunlight at some point in the day to indulge in.
Sunlight is a powerful biological signal. Your body requires some UV light to work properly on many levels. Being indoors, under white LED lights and harsh, compact fluorescents limits the full spectrum of light that is present in the sun which we have evolved with. It is recommended to aim for 10-20 minutes of adequate sunlight exposure, on as much of your body as possible, every day. Luckily, in our location, between 33 degrees Latitudinal North and -33 degrees Latitudinal South, between10:30am-3:00pm, we have access to UVB rays when they are the most powerful, yet reducing less tissue damage and offer more biological benefit than other ultraviolet rays .
Sunlight helps to:
- Regulate your circadian rhythm .
- Increase Vitamin D production in your body and also activates vitamin D by turning it into vitamin D sulfate, which gives an extra dose compared to taking supplements. Sunscreen prevents skin from absorbing vitamin D, so leave some areas unexposed during the short time of exposure  .
- Optimize Testosterone, a major hormone for men and women which plays a part in defining muscle tone, body composition and sex drive. (Men, apparently sunlight on your bare chest and back will increase testosterone levels by 120%) .
- Increase Nitric Oxide levels, which causes vasodilation, or the widening of your blood vessels, increasing blood flow throughout your body. This helps to improve performance and recovery by optimizing oxygen and nutrient transport and making cellular waste removal more efficient .
- Release Endorphins, hormones which have been shown to reduce pain, support hormone regulation, and even inhibit cancer growth    
- Increases Dopamine release and the number of Dopamine receptors in your body, which can help symptoms of depression and seasonal affective disorder .
3. Hydrate and Use Plenty of Electrolytes
When you take your workout outdoors, don’t forget to bring water with you. Drink whenever you feel thirsty and try not to ration your water. For most workouts, following voluntary drinking behavior, it is recommended to drink at least 700 mL (or 24 oz.) of water per hour  
If you are outdoors for extended periods of time, especially in the heat of the summer, it’s important to replace minerals that you lose when sweating. It’s recommended to consume the equivalent of 700 – 1,200 mg of sodium per hour (depending on the temperature) along with other electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium and potassium .
There are many high-quality electrolyte tablets and powders on the market these days. Try to avoid ones with added sugars and chemicals. Electrolyte tablets are extremely portable and can easily be plopped into a bottle of water on the go.
Better yet, at Samahita Retreat, we always offer a special mixture of lime juice and Himalayan pink salt that you can add to your water to help you rehydrate. And of enjoying a chilled, fresh, young coconut at our Juice Bar, gives an effective, natural, sweet dose of electrolytes, that are easily assimilated in the body compared to any sports drinks .
So, get outside. Get near nature and especially water. Kick off your shoes. Feel the sun on your skin. Carry ample drinking water. Take your workout outdoors. You don’t need to do it for long, but do it every day and do it well. It’s all free and available for you to enjoy.
“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.”