When did we stop going outdoors?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are probably aware that there has been a huge boom in the health and fitness industry in the last 5 years.

Social media – and particularly Instagram – has played a huge part in this increasing trend towards obtaining optimal health, with literally thousands of fitness-related hashtags being used every single second. At the time of writing, #fitness has been used nearly 171,900,000 times. Gym has been used almost 87,000,000 times. And there are so many #s about weightlifting that it is difficult to even know where to begin. But herein lies a problem.

Now just to make something clear; I’m not here to complain about social media’s effect on generally increasing society’s love of exercise. I’m all for it; if scanning through Instagram during your lunch break gives you the motivation to get off your arse and exercise when you go home then that’s great.

But have you noticed that the vast majority – not all, I know – of the images on Instagram nowadays are taken in a gym environment? Search any fitness-related # on Instagram and your browsing will be dominated by often scantily-clad men and women in a gym environment, doing stuff with dumbbells which only look possible if you have the flexibility of a Russian gymnast. Mottos such as “ass to grass”, “go hard or go home” or “feel the burn” (also often turned in to an annoyingly long #...) further indicate that a huge percentage of our exercise nowadays is done in the gym environment.

In theory, there is nothing wrong with that. However, I fear that social media might be sowing the seed in society’s head that going to the gym is the only way to get fit nowadays. Going to the gym has turned in to a sport in its own right, instead of being a supplement to sporting activities. We seem to be losing the appreciation for good old-fashioned fresh air, and all of the benefits that can bring. One of my biggest bug-bears is watching someone jogging mindlessly on a treadmill whilst the weather outside is mild and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. My irritation levels usually reach a peak when I witness a gym-goer sitting on the bike and reading a book. I just cannot for the life of me understand why you would choose to exercise that way in a stuffy, air-conditioned building when you could be outside. I know it isn’t always possible due to weather or needing other equipment in the gym, but in the vast majority of cases I would argue the option to exercise outside is always there.

And what happened to playing sports like hockey, or netball? Are they even a thing anymore? I’ve had conversations with more than one of my acquaintances who said they hate the gym, but they go anyway as they need to keep fit. Yes, you do need to keep fit. But why make yourself suffer in the gym environment when you could find an exercise that you really love? Go and play hockey or netball (if they do still exist of course); join a local running club; dust off your bike. You don’t HAVE to lift weights or tie yourself in knots on the cable machine. Of course, resistance training has benefits that cardio cannot offer, but if you hate exercising that way then it isn’t going to be good for you mentally, regardless of the physical benefits. So many of us nowadays spend our working day sat inside an office – it can’t be good for us exercising inside all the time too?

I happen to love lifting weights; but I also love exercising in the fresh air. Two times a week I train outside, and although I’m the first to complain when its bitterly cold, I always feel better for it, especially when I have been sat at my desk for 9 hours. So my advice would be to get outside; just make pledge to yourself that one session a week will be done outdoors, or have some outdoor element to it. I promise you will feel better for it, and if you are looking for instagrammable content, then rural or city landscapes are much more interesting than the inside of some anonymous gym. And you are much less likely to feel the wrath of me whacking you over the head with your own book…

Becki is a competitive athlete and combines sprint and throws training with working full time in the defence industry as a communications manager. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram (unless you want to see people reading books on machines...) at: @bex1225

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