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Fitbit’s Spring Clean: Reduce Stress by Getting Active Outside

It’s time to hang up your winter coat! This is the last post in our series of 12 healthy “hacks” from our experts, to help jumpstart new spring routines. Today’s post is our second from Lauren Slayton, the author of The Little Book of Thin.

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Forget therapy (OK maybe not) have you heard of ecotherapy?

I always joke that my workouts are medicinal. They help me de-stress. It seems that “mean mommy” makes an appearance on the days when there isn’t time for a run. I had previously chalked this up to the endorphins from exercise, the power of a good sweat and the boost I get from listening to my favorite music. I may have missed that where I do my workout is just as important as whether or not I did it.

There is a burgeoning area of research on “ecotherapy” or the effects time spent outside has on us. A study conducted in the UK compared a group walking in a shopping mall to another group walking in the park. After walking in the park, 90% of participants claimed increased self esteem, 88% improved mood and 71% felt less tense. For comparison, these numbers were under 50% in all criteria for the mall walkers.

Time outside provides an escape from our homes and our desks. It’s a time to reflect and may evoke good memories. Outside time also stimulates our senses with color, sounds and fresh air.

After walking in the park 90% of participants claimed increased self esteem…

In terms of exercise, a study out of the University of Utah compared the 5K times of runners on treadmills, an indoor track and outside. The fastest times were recorded outdoors, the slowest on the treadmill. Runners on the treadmill perceived their workout to be more strenuous than those who ran at the same intensity outside.

Another study found that the the more people exercised outside (moderate-to-vigorous activity), the more their total weekly workout time increased. “Participants reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and declared a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date” And if it’s not warming up yet where you live, don’t let that stop you. One study found after 6 weeks of spending 2 hours outside (in 60-degree weather), participants had decreased body fat

But it certainly doesn’t need to be two hours when it comes to your mood. As little as 5-10 minutes spent outside, even stationary (you have approval to put your Fitbit stats on hold for a moment), can make a difference to your stress level and your outlook. Those 10 minutes a day may keep mean mommy (or mean daddy or mean coworker) away.

How will you spend time outside today? Perhaps snap a photo and instagram it to me @Foodtrainers and @Fitbit. Do you feel being outside is beneficial? Do you believe in “ecotherapy”?

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Dear Fitbit:

    Thank you for awarding me the 50 stairs badge. I do not really deserve it. My FitbitOne records a walk up a hill of good grade as if I were walking up a set of stairs, on a long hill as much as 50 stairs. This may not be quite in order, perhaps you like to know about it.

    Best wishes,


  • I’m 78 years young and have always been an outdoor girl and sun-worshiper. I definitely get a “high” being outside – regardless of season or weather! It’s God’s medical clinic!

  • I just came in from a run around downtown Salt Lake City, where I am visiting for a company conference. I find the best way to see a new city and it sites it do a 2-3 mile jog and take in the sites. I just ran by the historic Court house, Library and common garden park, complete with fountains and sculptures. Its a gorgeous way to start the day, especially knowing I will be sitting inside a hotel conference room in meetings all day! Make the time, it just takes about 30 minutes and now I am going to hop in the shower!

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