Exercising outside often helps burn more calories

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Trading the treadmill for a footpath may help boost the benefits of your fitness plan. (WLS)

Trading the treadmill for a footpath may help boost the benefits of your fitness plan.

Twenty-four-hour gyms and boutique workout classes are all the rage, but the costs can add up quickly. Monday's Healthbeat is all about exercising outside, where it's free, and where people often end up burning more calories.

Energetix Fitness Instructor Kathy Craft's gym classes aren't gym classes at all. In her classes, a foot bridge becomes a challenge and she takes a hiking trail instead of a stair master.

"If you are in an indoor exercise class, you are watching the clock, (thinking) 'When is this going to end?' and thinking about the rest of your day, instead of being in the moment," Craft said.

Outdoor versus indoor workouts? Experts said calorie-wise, outdoors takes first. Moving over different terrain is tougher, the wind burns more calories and more vitamin D means more endorphins.

"Coming out here in the fresh air, it just really relieves my stress," said Mary Ann Ransler, a woman who exercises outside.

Nearly a dozen studies agree outdoors beat indoors by nearly every test: increased energy and revitalization, while decreasing depression, tension and anger. Also, if you start exercising outside, you're more likely to stick with your regimen than your indoor counterparts.

"I think people are happier when they are exercising outdoors because they're not staring at a screen, being told what their heart rate is," said Rebecca Barker, M.D., Internal Medicine, Palo Alto Medical Foundation. "I think people will push themselves harder when they're not reminded of what they're doing."

Finally, exercising outdoors doesn't come with monthly dues and you never know who might show up to cheer you on.

Outdoor workouts can also be "family time." Instead of yet another circuit training class, go chase your child through a park. You'll probably burn as many or more calories.

If you would like more information, check out the medical breakthroughs on the web at www.ivanhoe.com.

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