Why Your Exercise Environment Matters
Thomas G. Plante
I was born and raised in Rhode Island, so I certainly don’t take our terrific weather for granted. Year-round beautiful weather along with our lovely garden-like campus makes exercising easy and fun. Add state-of-the-art fitness facilities and a northern California culture of health and fitness appreciation and you have all of the ingredients for a health conscious and highly fit campus. And we do. This has been confirmed by a variety of national polls and rankings that have highlighted SCU as one of the most physically fit and health conscious campuses in the nation (see article).
Certainly physical exercise and fitness offer many health benefits, but there are also so many psychological benefits, too. Quality research from a variety of sources have well documented the fact that physical exercise lowers stress and anxiety as well as improves depression, self-esteem, and resiliency.
In my laboratory, SCU students and I have been conducting research over the years on many of the psychological and social benefits of exercise. We have found that how you exercise (e.g., indoors vs outdoors, alone or with others, in front of mirrors or motivating posters of fit celebrities, on a bike or a treadmill) all matter a great deal and result in different health and psychosocial benefits.
In a nutshell, our results show that exercising alone is likely best for stress management, contemplation, and to relax; while exercising with others is better for energizing yourself and waking up. We also have found that people tend to gravitate towards the workout intensity and experience of those around them. So, when exercising next to high fit people working out hard you try to keep up with them while exercising next to lower fit people tends to slow you down. And not surprisingly, you tend to enjoy your exercise more when you do it outside compared to exercising indoors.
Certainly, we all know that regular exercise is good for your mental and physical health. But how we exercise, and with who, matters a great deal too if you want to get the most out of your routine. Empirical laboratory research here at SCU has been unpacking these relationships so that people can use evidence-based data to better reach their exercise and fitness goals when it comes to getting the very most out of exercise. And with ideal exercise weather and conditions at SCU, there are no excuses to not get your exercise done.
So get out there and move the body. Your body, mind, and soul will thank you. For more information, check out my web page.