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I know this might seem counterintuitive, considering I’m writing on behalf of a Pilates studio, which is decidedly indoors, but you all need to get outside. For real. It’s summer! School is out, and typically life slows down just a fraction during the month of July. Toronto is a lush, green city full of parks and trees and gorgeous gardens and trails all around. Breathe in that oxygen-rich air! I’m not saying don’t come to the studio–of course we want to see you and keep your Pilates practice humming–but what if you walked over? Or rode your bike? Or grabbed an iced coffee with a friend after class and sat on a park bench to debrief? Take your mat onto the back deck or your balcony for your online class. Power walk through High Park before your morning workout. Do a ten minute Video-On-Demand class poolside after your morning laps. These are just a few suggestions, but the healing power of nature is undeniable. Studies show that being outside in nature is relaxing, reducing our stress, cortisol levels, muscle tension and heart rates–all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. And walking or running gives people a boost when done in natural environments rather than indoors, reducing feelings of anger, fatigue and sadness. You don’t even need to do it for very long! Exercising in green spaces for as little as five minutes was found to improve people’s overall mood and feelings of self-esteem. When you’re outside, fresh air can help raise oxygen levels in your brain, which increases serotonin levels. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that alters your mood.
Time spent outdoors will also increase your Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it ‘s made in the skin when it’s exposed to sunlight. Studies suggest that Vitamin D may have protective effects against everything from osteoporosis to cancer to depression to heart attacks and stroke. Of course, if you’re planning on being outside for more than 10 or 15 minutes, sunscreen is essential for protection against harmful UV rays. And science suggests that you’ll want to stay outside, because those who exercise outdoors tend to exercise longer and burn more calories–the distractions of your surroundings take your mind off the “work” part of “workout”!
I lived in my neighbourhood for a few years before I really started to take advantage of the trails nearby, and now I can’t imagine not heading out for a run or a hike a couple times a week to clear my head, soak in the sun, maybe catch sight of a bunny or even a deer, and reset my mind and body to take on the challenges of my work, family, and creative life. What is your favourite outdoor spot in Toronto? Show us the secret or not-so-secret places where you find joy, peace, or inspiration in and around the neighbourhood! And, of course, see you in class!
Retrofit Master Instructor
Lead Instructor/Operations Associate