Menopause is a time when many women ad pounds and develop a myriad of health problems. Exercise has proven benefits for controlling weight and decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Now, another study has compared indoor versus outdoor exercise and has found that outdoor exercise is best. The findings were published in the July edition of the journal Menopause.
The study authors note that postmenopausal women, despite their increased risk for cardiovascular disease, do not follow physical activity recommendations. Outdoor exercise sessions induce more positive affective responses than the same amount of exercise performed indoors; therefore, outdoor training could increase the likelihood of continuing in an exercise program. The goal of the study was to compare the long-term effects of outdoor and indoor training on healthy outcomes and adherence to exercise training in postmenopausal women.
The investigators conducted a 12-week randomized trial comprised of 23 healthy (body mass index (BMI; 22-29 kg/m2) postmenopausal women, aged 52-69 years. The subjects were assigned to either outdoor training or indoor training and performed three weekly one-hour sessions of identical aerobic and resistance training. Adherence, affective valence (Feeling Scale), affective states (Exercise-Induced Feeling Inventory), and rating of perceived exertion were measured during exercise sessions; in addition, depression symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory) and physical activity level (Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly) were measured before and after the intervention. Affective valence is a term describing an individual’s positive feelings toward an activity. In this case, exercising. Affective states refers to one’s positive or negative feelings while engaging in an activity.
The investigators found that after 12 weeks of training, exercise-induced changes in affective valence were higher for the outdoor training group. A significant group-by-time interaction was found for postexercise tranquility, with a significant increase outdoors and a significant decrease indoors. A time effect was revealed for positive engagement *e.g., exercise enjoyment), which decreased over time in the indoor group (P ≤ 0.05). Adherence to training (97% vs. 91%) was significantly higher outdoors. During the period from baseline to week 12, depression symptoms decreased and physical activity level increased only for the outdoor group.
The authors concluded that outdoor training enhances positive responses to exercise and leads to greater exercise adherence than indoor training in postmenopausal women.
Take home message:
Indoor exercise equipment can—for a price—incorporate pleasant scenes to simulate the outdoor environment, but they don’t measure up to the real thing. I still recall a pleasant bicycle ride I took during a pleasant fall days. Leaves falling from the trees and crunched under my tires, pleasant woodsy aromas were prevalent, and I encountered other cyclists, joggers, and walkers enjoying their outdoor exercise session.