Kingston Pilates in the Park - 10 ways it will benefit your life!
Back in March 2020 when COVID 19 became commonplace in our vocabulary, Raise Pilates ran its first ever Pilates in the Park at Fairfield Recreation Ground, Kingston, to clients who were missing Pilates. As guidelines altered, we turned Online for our Pilates.
And whilst there are huge positives for online Pilates, which is why Raise Pilates will continue to offer a variety of classes in this way, the benefit of adding Pilates in the Park to your week is massive.
I love teaching these classes - to see friendly faces, to laugh and speak to my clients and to see the connections my clients make with each other. But I also love to be outside - to experience my local park in a new light - with fresh eyes. And I know that I am not alone. My clients have often expressed their love for the class too.
But is there any evidence to back this up?
Absolutely. There are 10 fabulous, and scientific, benefits to exercising outdoors!
1. It is amazing for your mental health.
Interestingly, yesterday marked the start of Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme this year is Nature and how it benefits our mental health.
How fitting that as Pilates in the Park returns, additional awareness of the benefits of being surrounded by greenery and non-human living beings is! In research carried out by mentalhealth.org.uk, 45% of people in the UK reported visiting parks and green space helped them to cope during the pandemic.
It takes just 20 minutes in a park to feel happier, according to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research. You don’t even have to be exercising to feel the benefits, just being in nature had a marked increase in participants’ wellbeing.
But it wasn’t just the being in nature that is of benefit, it’s noticing it! Connecting with nature. Research shows that people who are more connected with nature are usually happier in life and more likely to report feeling their lives are worthwhile. Nature can generate a multitude of positive emotions, such as calmness, joy, creativity and can facilitate concentration.
And that is where I find Pilates in the Park is key. What better way to notice your surroundings than spending time looking up at the trees; achieving a completely new perspective on your environment which you may have witnessed multiple times before but never through this view?
2. Exercising outside is good for your heart.
And yes, we all hear about the benefits of exercise on our heart health, but add that exercise outside and you’ll reap the rewards. In one study, it was shown that 10% of people with high blood pressure could get their levels under control if they spent at least 30 minutes in a park each week. In fact, Japanese researchers have linked Forest Bathing (the practice of walking in nature), with lower levels of cortisol which is known to raise blood pressure. An Australian study showed that people who made long visits to green spaces had lower rates of depression and high blood pressure, and those who visited more frequently had greater social cohesion.For those who suffer depression and high blood pressure suggest that visits to outdoor green spaces of 30 minutes or more during the course of a week could reduce the population prevalence of these illnesses by up to 7% and 9% respectively.
3. It’s fun!
When we are all in a situation together, albeit 2 metres apart, there is a camaraderie that comes with it.
We are social creatures, even us introverts need to connect with others, and when a group come together to practice the same thing, there is that sense of community and very often, laughter.
And this is not just something that I as a teacher believe, studies show that those who exercise outside reported that they felt more engerised, more engaged and revitalised.
4. It’s a stress reliever.
Interestingly, in 2015, when researchers compared the brain activity of healthy people following a walk for 90 minutes in either a natural setting, or an urban one, they found those who had partaken in the nature walk have lower prefrontal cortex activity.
This is the region of the brain linked with controlling our emotional responses to stress. So just getting some movement in greenery has stress relieving properties.
5. Increase your Vitamin D levels.
During the pandemic, I am sure that you will have become even more aware of the benefits of Vitamin D. For those of us living in the UK, there is a very good chance, particularly in the winter months, that we are deficient in this vitamin. Vitamin D is important for our immune system, as well as keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Whilst we need to be careful to protect our skin from sun, we need to allow for absorption of sunlight onto our skin to produce the levels in our body. Getting ourselves outside regularly, with adequate sun protection as required, is going to help boost your levels!
6. Sunlight helps to relieve pain .
Not only is Pilates itself a great pain reliever and preventer, it has been shown that being in natural settings can really reduce the need for pain relief. Yes, it’s true! Research showed that those recovering from spinal surgery who were subjected to sunlight, versus those recuperating in dim light, reported less stress, marginally less pain and relied on far lower pain relief levels.
Remember, we are in Britain so we can’t guarantee sunlight every week, but regular attendance will increase the likelihood of being bathed in sunlight at some point and that has to be a good thing!
7. Being in nature is energising!
Being outside is shown to make people feel more alive! One of the researchers of a study around this, Richard Ryan, lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester says, "Nature is fuel for the soul...Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature," he says.
The study also showed that those who have more energy not only are more likely to take part in healthy activity, but that they are also more resilient to physical illness.
8. Outdoor exercise feels easier...
Now I am not so sure that this is always the case, but it is certainly true for me when I am running on a treadmill versus outside. Treadmill running is almost impossible for me - it feels so hard and challenging. Perhaps it is the lack of distraction from surroundings, or perhaps, as one study showed, it is to do with the surroundings themselves.
In a small study, cyclists pedalled in front of green, grey and red video footage. Those who were in front of the green reported a more positive mood and less physical exertion. Could it mean that the greenery around us can help us when we exercise?
9. Connection with local people of Kingston.
Pilates at home online has been a wonderful connector to others for many of my clients, and being able to continue to exercise is hugely important and I will be continuing to teach this way.
However, for those who live in or around Kingston, and are able, the opportunity to exercise with, socialise with and connect with fellow humans, has huge
Social support and feeling connected to others help people maintain a healthy BMI, control blood sugars, improve cancer survival, decrease cardiovascular mortality, decrease depressive symptoms and overall mental health.
10. Mr Pilates told us so!
The creator of this wonderful series of exercises, Joseph Pilates, was a real advocate of the benefits of exercise outside. In fact, he would suggest wearing as few clothes as possible!
He wrote, “Unless you are really chilly, do not exercise in sweatshirts or even in lighter clothing. Whenever and wherever possible, wear ‘shorts’ or sunsuits outdoors, and let the lifegiving ultraviolet rays reach and penetrate into every skin pore of your body.”
Panic not! I am not going to suggest that you strip off in the park to exercise but as a man ahead of his time, his words make utter sense, particularly in light of the points explored above.
It transpires that the positivity I as the teacher, and that of my clients have regarding Pilates in the Park is not just circumstantial.
There is proof that exercising outdoors, as we do, twice weekly, with Pilates in the Park, is in fact, absolutely good for not only your physical health, but also your mental health.
Grab a mat and come give it a try!
In the words of Joseph Pilates, “By all means never fail to get all the sunshine and fresh air you can”.
Get a Free Class
Pilates in the Park takes place on a Monday at midday and a Thursday at 10am at Fairfield Recreation Ground, KT1.
You can come and trial a class for free https://raisepilates.punchpass.com/classes
Raise Pilates also offers one to one Pilates training and this could also take place outside.
We also run a huge variety of classes online for the complete Pilates beginner to those who wish to complement their sport, for example, Pilates for Runners.